On my first visit to the second largest city of India, I quickly realized that Kolkata has a charm like none other. The cultural and intellectual capital of India presents an eclectic mix of the old and the new with art, culture, cricket, football and festivity ingrained deeply into the ethos of the city. Located on the east bank of the river Hooghly, the city is multifarious in the true sense of the term.
While I had just over two days to explore the city, the spirit of the metro had me truly captivated. Here are some of my favorite moments and captures from this engaging city.
Also nicknamed the “City of Palaces”, this erstwhile capital of British India has a plethora of colonial buildings that incorporate Gothic, Neo-Classical, Oriental and Islamic styles of architecture. Heritage structures like the Writers’ building, GPO, Insurance Building, High Court, Governors’ house and Town hall have truly stood the test and stand tall giving the city its unique character.
I was fascinated by the ubiquitous green and sometimes maroon elongated shuttered windows that dominated most buildings and houses of the colonial era. Many of the old buildings in various parts of the city, however, are dilapidated and disintegrating with an urgent need of restoration.
Iconic Bridges and Ghats:
A drive on the Howrah bridge (renamed Rabindra Setu now) which is a cantilever bridge over the Hooghly River as well as the Vidyasagar Setu (famously called the Second Hooghly Bridge) is a must do. A boat ride over the Hooghly River from the Princep Ghat, which is a distributary of the Ganges while watching the sun go down was a great experience. You can also watch fishermen prepare their nets for the next session of fishing.
The yellow taxis and multiple forms of public transport
One of the famous symbols of the city is the trademark yellow taxi that successfully coexists with the more ‘modern’ Olas and Ubers. Apart from the efficient Kolkata Metro, I found a multitude of buses, trams and rickshaws (though, sadly, some of them are hand pulled even today).
While you can spend days on a gastronomical journey in the city, I particularly looked for sampling the typical Bengali fare. Needless to say it was delectable and offered a great spread even for a vegetarian like me. The characteristic light colored, almost whitish puris (unleavened deep-fried Indian bread), the Kancha Aamer Chutney (sweet raw mango side dish) and the refreshing mishti doi (sweetened curd) were my favorites.
Omnipresent street food:
Most streets in the city are teeming with vendors and hawkers selling street food. All are equally busy with loads of people making a beeline for them. From hot tea to jalebis in the morning to puris and Phuchka and samosas, the options seem endless.
From taking a stroll down Park street to savoring the chocolates at Flurry’s, visiting the flower market at Mallik Ghat to the idol makers in Kumartuli, the city had many memorable experiences to offer. A visit to Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore and the Kalighat temple were some of my favorites.
Unfortunately, it was the peak of summer when we visited the city and certainly not the best season to visit. But I would definitely love to visit again to relive the wonderful memories and experience new ones when the weather is kinder.
P.S: Special thanks to my blogger friend Subhadip Mukherjee for his invaluable inputs that helped me plan this trip.