India Part 7: Calcutta, Varanasi, Delhi

While Delhi has many centuries of history, Calcutta only became important in the 1700s. This means that there are fewer places to visit and, after a couple of days, Dad and I had seen most of the things we wanted to. We generally took things easy and I ate a lot of pasta and pesto.

Dad headed home from Calcutta and I took the train west to Varanasi. I was a little nervous about Varanasi as the city can be a little unrelenting, but things went smoothly. I was lucky I booked ahead as there was a big Shiva festival and the city was pretty much full (one friend had to stay in a guesthouse owner's home). 

Varanasi is the most incredible city I've ever seen. It lines a section of the Ganges, with steps (ghats) down to the water. The ghats are filled with temples, holy men, con artists, drug dealers, cricket games and lots of cows. I spent the afternoons promenading, amazed by the sights around me. 

Just back from the riverbank is the old city, a maze of narrow streets (but not so narrow people don't insist on riding motorbikes down them). It's very easy to get lost which is sometimes a good thing, and other times not. There are also some less hectic ghats to the North, where there are fewer tourists and fewer people offering boat rides.

I found out that my friends Emily and Caspar, last seen in Udaipur, were also in the city, so we met up and wandered about together for a while. I don't understand Varanasi very well – the city seems so strange and complicated. But it's an amazing place to visit.

I'd decided to book a 12:40am train out of Varanasi, since that meant I would reach Delhi at a sensible time. The downside of this was 2 1/2 hours waiting on the station. Still, the monkey stealing grapes from a fruit seller was entertaining. The journey itself was a drag and I was glad to reach Paharganj in Delhi. Tomorrow I'm off to Pushkar, which should be interesting and restful.


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