Amritsar – Chandigarh – Kalka – Shimla

• Amritsar is one of those Indian cities that can challenge all your senses. It is messy, polluted, dirty and in constant unfinished construction. It is hot and humid like in a steam bath. The traffic is crazy and unruly. The ocean of people especially by the Golden Temple challenge what is called ‘personal space’. Nevertheless, the border crossing ceremony and the Golden Temple are magnificent.

• Everyday around 5pm the border between India and Pakistan is closing. This is an elaborate ceremony with marching soldiers who look like proud peacocks waving their body parts in the most theatrical way. The thousands of people who gather to see it, on both sides, are a scene onto themselves. The Indian side was like the best party in town. Some call it the “most ridiculous ceremony” to which I say: if all conflicts will end like that, I’ll take “ridiculous” every day....Continue reading

• The Golden Temple is made of gold which makes it a visual treat, especially at night. It is magnetizing to be with the thousands of people who make pilgrimage – energy of devotion. Sikhism’s main principle is equality of all, thus contrasting Hinduism’s daunting Caste System.

• Designed from the ground up in the 1950’s by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh has wide streets, parks and a lake, the concrete color is dominant. Overall, I found the visual look of the city dull.

• Le Corbusier design of Chandigarh looks as if it was imported and plunked down in India; the concreate buildings, wide lane streets and parks bore no relationship to the country around them. The city plan discouraged mixed-income neighborhoods and street bazaars, both vital to the character of Indian towns. Chandigarh has streets and open spaces, but it has no life.

• The Rock Garden is a surreal sculpture complex, made to look and feel like a lost fantastical kingdom. The construction materials were taken from 50 villages that had to be destroyed in order to build the city. It is one of those crazy art installations that makes me think about trash differently.

• Shimla, the picturesque, touristy former summer capital of British India, is filled with pedestrian-only streets.

• We arrived by a toy train from Kalka, (narrow gauge railway). Opened in 1906, the technical achievement constructing this railway is impressive.

• The Vice Regal Lodge was the residence of the British Viceroy. Seeing the room where some of the partition negotiations took place between Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah got my imagination going.

• No trip to India can pass without getting sick at some point. Shimla was my time. I took it easy and charged my battery for the Kinnaur – Spiti Valley loop.

• Three animals can be seen almost anywhere in India: cows, dogs and monkeys, who always seem to be content. No one bothers them, they basically do what they want. On one of our drives, facing a cow strolling leisurely on our lane, our driver proclaimed with a good laugh: “I love my India”