Friday, January 26, 2018

Kochi (Cochin)

Kochi has been a port since 1341 when a flood created its harbour and opened it up to Arab, Chinese and European traders and colonisers. So it has a long and fascinating history......... but that is not very evident in the way the city looks today - unfortunately.

Our Taj Hotel is nice place to stay but it's situated on a man made island created early last century to make the port less prone to flooding. The surroundings are strictly utilitarian and uninspiring.  And as we toured the "old town" today it became even clearer what a ramshackle place this is despite the efforts of local tour companies to show off this city's amazing heritage to its many visitors.

This is the view of Kochi's main beach!!  Greatly damaged by storms and badly littered with plastic and other detritus.....

The old colonial quarter still has some evidence of its Portuguese and English occupation. These buildings are mostly used as boutique hotel accommodation now.......

St Francis Church was originally built in 1503 and is the oldest European church in India. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried in the church in 1524 (but his remains were subsequently taken back to Lisboa by his son).

The church started out as Catholic, became Protestant under the rule of the Dutch in 1663 and then Anglican under the rule of the English in 1804.
We came across this lovely street scene - a newly married couple were having photos taken when a mob of goats decided to photobomb the shoot.
 This marks the starts of the beachside "promenade" and the fish market area......
Kochi is famous for its unique Chinese cantilevered fishing poles -but today there were a lot more tourists being caught than fish!

 This is the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, originally built by the Portuguese (subsequently destroyed by the British in 1795) and then rebuilt in 1887.
It's a complete wedding cake of a building. I especially loved the recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper above the altar and all the painted faux marble! 

It was interesting to see all the Portuguese names in this cemetery.
I enjoyed our visit to the Dhobi Khana (laundry) run by the Tamil speaking Vannan community in the old town of Kochi. Their forebears were brought to Kochi by the Dutch colonisers to wash the clothes of their soldiers. But now its a commercial laundry - with a very serene ambience.

 We're approaching the old Jewish quarter of Kochi by now...

This is the exterior of Kochi's Jewish synagogue (no photos allowed inside), the oldest active synagogue in the British Commonwealth. Yaheh, the last female Jew in the area of child bearing age was there today collecting the entrance ticket money. It's clear the local population is diminishing fast!

There are some strong women's collectives in the area supporting local women in textile production, spice trading and jewellery making.

This embroidery trader was very proud of the women's fine work AND the fact they had been recognised by a visit from Prince Charles and Camilla in 2013.

We stopped for lunch at a very interesting place on the waterfront, belonging to the largest antiques dealer in South India. There was a spectacular 100metre longboat marking the entrance - amazing!

 Ginger in all its many forms was the specialty of the house - lucky me (ginger ice-cream)!
We saw a Kathakali dance demonstration and performance tonight in the old town - a form of very classical dance drama (all male actors) that uses highly stylised movement (especially the eyes and hands), singing in Sanskrit, percussion, make up and costumes, to tell stories from the ancient Hindu epics. It was very interesting although an hour and a half was more than enough for us without a detailed understanding of this very intricate and SLOW moving art form.

Today was India's Republic Day and a public holiday - there's been a festive air about the day, lots of people about and the hotel has celebrated with an early morning flag raising ceremony and lots of guests celebrating with special dinners - a special day to be in Kochi despite its challenges.

1 comment:

Maxine said...

Great to read Judy. Love from us here. Maxie and Rod xx