Tues, Feb 24

We got up for breakfast at 7:30 this morning to find that some of the English ladies were also staying here!! We had a nice chat with them regarding what they have seen thus far and what their future plans were for the trip. They are on a shorter and faster tour than we are and were leaving later today for Agra. We leave for Agra on the 26th. It was funny to run into them!
Our driver guy came to pick us up at 8:30 before heading more centrally to get mom and dad from their hotel. It is a very nice hotel in which they are staying, with a gym, pool, restaurant, and all those western hotel standards that we are used to. Their hotel served as kind of a regrouping spot several times later in the day, which was also nice. It seems as though they have adjusted well – I mean, a time difference is a time difference, I suppose! It was probably a shocking first day, however, because we really did get into the thick of things.
We first drove by India gate, which kind of looks like the Arc deTriomphe, but has INDIA on the top of the arch, instead!! I don’t really recall much of the history surrounding that. There were many government buildings and centres pointed out along the way including the central secretariat and parliamentary buildings. Buildings are hard to get a good view of most of the time because of the enormity of them as well as the fact that all of the really important ones are behind gates.
We drove past the red fort. The Mughals originally built this huge fort in 1638 when they were in power in India. It was looted and parts destroyed by various other groups and the English used it for an army base when they occupied India. We didn’t actually go inside, because it is now a World Heritage Site and the last remaining buildings inside the fort are inaccessible.
We then drove down to Old Delhi. The road ways are very convoluted and busy with hundreds of electrical wires crossing over and under each other overhead. It was an amazing experience. The area called Chandni Chowk is located near the red fort and has many kiosks selling everything from bangles, to shoes, to cloth, to food. We explored this area through cycle-rickshaws, which was also a very interesting experience. I definitely like them better than I like the auto-rickshaws, because they go a little more slowly and are easier to see out of! We are going back there tomorrow because our quick ride though the area didn’t do justice! And, besides, we want to shop!!
At the other end of the market area is Jama Masjid which is a Muslim mosque. Mosques are open in the middle here, so it kind of looks like the Plaza St Marcs (sp!) in Venice. This open courtyard can hold 25,000 people and was, at one time, covered in beautiful carpets. The mosque was started in 1644. It always baffles me how long ago these structures were made. We barely have anything that is 100 years old! Anyway…Muslims don’t believe in idol worship, so the mosque was simple, but elegant red sandstone with white and black marble inlays. It was very interesting. And, because of its higher location, we were able to get a good view of the red fort, as well.
We drove back across the city to go see Humayun’s Tomb. It is a beautiful structure build in red sandstone by the Mughals during their reign in India. The senior wife of the second emperor Humayun is buried here. From afar it looks like the Taj Mahal because the latter’s construction was inspired by this building! The building is a perfect square, with all four sides exactly the same. The grounds are also square and are divided into quarters by small aqueducts that lead into the central building. Within each quarter, there is another division into four parts. The grounds were very peaceful and green. It was an interesting contrast to the bustling Old Delhi.
Back through town again, we visited Gandhi Smriti, a museum that has been created where Gandhi lived and was assassinated. He was killed on January 30, 1948. There was lots of information around the site, however, our guide was in a hurry, so we didn’t get too much time to read all of it. It is interesting because, here, they say they have Gandhi’s few remaining possessions, and in Pune, they say that they have Gandhi’s few possessions in that historic site – I think several places have all shared a few of Gandhi’s possessions!!
Our last site visit was to Qutb Minar. It dates back to the onset of Islamic rule in India. The Minar itself was constructed over many years, by several different people and has different architecture at each level. It stands a total of 73 meters high and is only 2.5m in diameter at the top. Again, it is sponsored by UNESCO and is a world heritage site, so we were not allowed to climb up to the top. The tower is actually leaning, because of the water seepage in the ground!! Within the grounds, there are the remains of the first mosque to be built in India. The original mosque was built on the foundation of a Hindu temple and the Hindu stones were used in their construction. However, because the Muslims don’t believe in idols, the idol carvings in the stones were all defaced. In the courtyard there is an iron pillar that dates back to AD times. “A six-line Sanskrit inscription indicates that it was initially erected outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar, and was raised in memory of Chandragupta II, who ruled from AD 375 to 413” (Lonely Planet, India). And, the weird thing about the pole is that after over 2000 years it hasn’t rusted – and scientists don’t really know why!!
Our last stop was to a Cotton Industries Emporium – a government run store, where they are try to swoon you with tea and biscuits and a demonstration of carpets and other products. By this time we were very hungry, so the two tea biscuits were wonderful, and the tea was pretty good too! The carpets were lovely, but it is impossible to know here what you are actually buying – even in a more established store. They do this big show and dance over their silk carpets and moving them around and all of that…but you have to remember that it is a show and nothing more than that. Even though we spent a long time in the store, we didn’t buy anything. Mom and dad bought a carpet yesterday from a similar store, but our driver said that there is no way that it is silk. However, realistically, would they ever really spend what it costs to purchase a real silk one? These (fake) ones look awesome, anyway…and it came from here, which is the main thing.
By the time we got back to mom and dad’s hotel, we were all starving and grumpy because of the low sugar levels and spending all day together. We all decided on going to the restaurant that mom and dad went to the night previous because it seemed to be cheap enough and food that everyone could handle. It was fine – I had pizza, and it was actually quite good. I miss my milk, however! J
Well, after that, we walked back to the Park. En route, we found a market and had some fun there. There were bindi’s and bangles and good stuff like that. Mom bought a few larger glass bangles that are quite pretty and I bought some pink and blue ones for Sparks. Hopefully, they will all get home in one piece!
We managed to get a taxi from the Park to our hotel for only 200 Rs (way too much, I am sure, but we were kind of done with negotiating) and found our place without too much trouble.
Night
-Allison

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