Taj Mahal

Travelling in India by car is an experience you should do, when you’re there. We spend approximately 9 hours in the car today and we got a feeling of being part of the flow on Indian streets. We were heading to Agra – a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The trip to Agra of about 230 km (one way) in the very morning led us past the awakening street life. We felt the first breath of the dawn. The traffic in India, as far as our impressions are, is like a river. You just put your vehicle along with yourself in the middle of the stream and announce yourself with a lot of honking to the other particles in the flow – and then your part of it. If you want to go faster, just slip in the opening gaps of the traffic, even if your vehicle just fits exactly in it. And by fitting I mean a tolerance to your vehicle size of some centimetres. The good thing about the flow is, that it is not too fast. The average speed of a lorry driving through India from north to south is around 7 km/h (according to a book I’ve read). Most lorries show a maximum speed of 40 km/h on their back. The activity and the danger of the traffic is not found in the actual speed but in the chaotic interaction between the vehicles. You just can not predict the next situation.

Apart from the actual traffic we were able to watch the people along the street. People going to work or students on their way to school in overcrowded auto rickshaws, buses, bicycles, cars, camel-drawn chaises, donkey-drawn chaises, ox-drawn chaises…

Sitting in the car and watching all the life around you is kind of surreal. You sit in a car with your favourite music in your ears and drift away with your thoughts and impression from outside… I will definitely need more time to digest all that.

Four hours later we arrived at the first of the three places we were about to discover, Akbar’s Tomb, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor. It is a big area with green grass where they also have a lot of deer in there which are a protected species, and very nice to look at.

After the tomb we went to Agra Fort. It is mostly built out of red sandstone which date back before 1000 AD. One of the emperors renovated parts of it with marble. Maybe you have read the blog about the fort we visited in Delhi and what we tried to find out about how life was organized. The Agra Fort is beautifully renovated and in very good condition and our guide showed us around and explained the various rooms and their use. From harem rooms to women’s jails to living rooms, dining, music, public and private audition rooms…and an impressive fountain system. Due to our mumbling guide we couldn’t figure out how this system used to work exactly, but we heard something of gravity and river and carrying water up…One of the rooms in this fort was the room where the builder of the Taj Mahal was under house arrest in the last 8 years of his life, ordered by his son. The good thing about his room was, he had a beautiful view to the other side of the river of the Taj Mahal (the pictures don’t show this very good due to the misty weather, but they give a good impression). The last thing I want to tell you about the Fort is something about moats. Yeah right, moatS. The first moat was a water filled and crocodile and snakes embellished death, the second one, closer to the wall, was enhanced with tigers. Thinking about getting in or out without using the door was probably useless.

We already had our first glance of the Taj Mahal from the window of the arrested, but seeing it in reality was really impressive. But I have to admit that we all thought it would be bigger. Our guide told us it was 233 meters high…which would be two thirds of the Eiffel Tower. We couldn’t believe it and asked again, but he was quite sure…we asked our mobile internet for available data on the Taj Mahal, and it said: 58 meters…maybe we just didn’t understand him, maybe he didn’t know, I don’t know…

Coming back to the size: since it is not a church nor a temple nor another fort, but a mausoleum for just his one beloved person, the second wife of Shah Jahan, Mumtaz Mahal, it is quite big. I could provide you with more data about the Taj Mahal, but you can also look that up in Wikipedia – instead I will give you an insight on a big business round the Taj Mahal: So called “professional photographers”. They walk around with their camera (reflex cameras) a portfolio of pictures they have already taken and an offer to a bargain picture set of you and the Taj Mahal from the best spots. We didn’t try it, but an American Lady who was with us took the chance…the pictures were, hum, professional,…hum,…no. But an astonishing thing was, one photographer took some pictures of her at the first spot we have been and suddenly stepped out a bush inside the Taj Mahal to give her the printed version. We had no idea where he came from, because it is probably 10 km away from the first spot, and how he found us in the masses of people inside the Taj Mahal park. Somehow it worked out for him – he sold 3 out of 7 pictures.

After the Taj Mahal, we went to another spot. The interested reader might think – somehow you’re not good with numbers – yeah right. That’s what we thought too. Our tour guide took us to another place where they still manufacture the decorated marble in the design of the Taj Mahal. We really didn’t want to buy anything there, but we somehow were surrounded by advertisement, getting cold water and being shown how they manufacture it. Quite interesting but since we didn’t want to buy something it was hard to sneak out of the situation.

Our way back to Delhi was long, but we had a really good driver who didn’t honk, he just used the dipper. We had another stop for some snacks, maybe halfway. It got dark (sunset is around 6.30 to 7 pm) so we didn’t see that much outside our window. The driver let us off directly in front of our apartment and we fell asleep with a lot to dream about.

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