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INDIA2022-09-25T18:01:55+00:00

Project Description

15.o7.2o22 • New Delhi

when i was sitting in the plane somewhere above the clouds too sleepy to do anything specific but also too excited to sleep i started thinking about what it would be like to spend more than two months in india & of course i couldn’t find an answer to this question at that time but in my mind i started to make up a picture of myself in india & of my way of being in india. i started to think about what experiences i might have, what situations i might face & what kind of feelings i might feel. caught up in all those thoughts i slowly started to dream & eventually drifted into a short sleep together with all my ideas & illusions. yet there were no real expectations involved in my images of india as i couldn’t even picture it at all at this point. i only knew it would be very different from all that i had experienced before & that was the only thing i needed to know by then. everything else would come my way anyway :)) so when i stepped out of the plane after landing on the `new delhi international airport´ the first thing that reached me was a big wave of hot & stuffy air rolling right into my face. wow welcome to india i thought & instantly had to smile: suddenly the sleepiness was all gone & there was only pure excitement left in my body even though it was only six am & i didn’t really get any sleep that night. i turned around to matthias, we looked at each other with a big & tired smile on our faces & right in this moment we realized: we actually just made it to india !! then everything happend just like as we were in trance: we entered the border control, collected our luggage, changed some money into indian rupees & headed straight to the metro which took us to our hostel in `new delhi´ located in the district of `hauz khas´ which is in the southern part of this immense city. did you know that `new delhi´ has almost thirty million inhabitants ?! & we are talking about one single city here :)) crazy right ?! well this is what i thought as well but actually feeling this hugeness is a whole different dimension. so when we left the metro & finally reached the surface of the city we were overwhelmed once again (& it shouldn’t be the last time lol) there were so many people so many noises so much traffic & all those smells as well: it was like chaos mixed with fascination & overburdening at the same time !! for a second we just stood there staring at our new surrounding, unable to move & unsure what to do, totally overtired & extremely excited: it was such a weird mix of feelings really :)) somehow we managed to take a tuktuk (the cute little motor rickshaws cruising around everywhere) to our hostel called `let’s bunk´ where we could luckily already move into our room or better into our studio !! the room was perfect with several windows towards the `deer park´ a big comfi bed & most important: a working air conditioning lol :)) however, we didn’t really realize all that at this point but fell asleep almost the second we walked in: what a surprise lol. we then slept for approximately the whole day & woke up only because we got a little hungry. after a long cold shower we went out in order to find a little snack or something but instead ended up in one of the most popular south-indian cuisine places in whole `new delhi´ called `naivedyam´. well too bad or rather lucky us !! the food was extremely delicious & we tried several varieties of indian flatbread, rice curries & chutneys accompanied by a fresh mango lassi & the local masala chai with milk & sugar. you getting hungry now ?! we went back there two days later to try the famous indian thali: a big platter with all kinds of indian specialties & we would probably go there a third time if we would stay here for much longer :)) but how to sum up our few days in `new delhi´ that seemed like a whole month ?! there were so many different impressions each day & i am still processing all the input india gave me so far. what struck me the most so far surely were the huge differences: luxury hotels next to slums, beautiful & calm garden areas next to chaotic & loud streets & people walking their white breed huskys in the park where tons of street dogs are trying to find something to eat: now is the world wrong or is it wrong ?! it surely is but honestly i am so grateful for being able to see all this (based on an extremely privileged position of course) to be confronted with it & through this opening up my way to see the world my way of facing others & not at last myself. india is so much & i just can’t break it down in any way: we visited mosques & temples of such beauty, we tried the best food, we watched the most stunning red sunsets from the top of `fort hauz khas´ & even spotted wild chipmunks & parrots (they are so quick & cute lol i love them) & there will be so much more to see to feel & to try during our journey !! so if india is one thing it surely is a whole new world to me & i can’t wait to get to know this country better with every step i take.

17.o7.2o22 • Agra

after spending five days full of exploring the city, getting rid of jetlag & adjusting to the indian rhythm in `new delhi´ we were finally ready to move on & to go on our first little trans indian journey !! the next stop on our route called `agra´ is located south east of `new delhi´ & it takes about two to three hours to reach `agra cantt´ (the main train station of agra) by train. when booking a train ticket in india (indian railways is the official website) there are three options: SL the so-called sleeper which refers to the third class & is always super crowded, 2A equipped with proper seats & a little more space than SL & 3A which contains eight seats per unit & has air conditioning, which is why this class is the most popular as well as the most expensive one (we also booked 3A & paid 5oo rupees per person which is around five euros) we were prepared for the worst when boarding our train to `agra´ as we heard quite a lot of horror stories about the indian way of transportation but in the end our worries were completely unnecessary: the ride was surprisingly comfi (i even slept for a while) the people were super friendly & the craziest thing: we actually arrived on time !! after reaching `agra´ we took a taxi straight to `joey’s hostel´ where we would spend the next two nights. we were welcomed very open & friendly & immediately felt comfortable here. for the first time in india we got to meet other backpackers from countries other than india: in `new delhi´ we had only ever met indian tourists which was kind of cool but also kind of weird so now we were even happier to talk to french, italian as well as to austrian guys like anselm from vienna (haha the world is so small) but when the guy from the hostel showed us to the rooftop terrace we were completely out of words: the famous `taj mahal´ was standing right in front of us in all its beauty & monumentality. we couldn’t believe our eyes: was this even true ?! well it surely was but it would take some time (maybe forever) to get used to this kind of crazy view !! at six pm we all had masala chai with milk & sugar (the typical indian type of tea) together & then went off for a little evening stroll through the hood which was led by two guys from the hostel. we walked along the red walls of `taj mahal´ until we reached the river flowing through `agra´ called `yamuna´. the bright evening light hit us the moment we walked out to the riverside & we were overwhelmed by the view that opened up in front of us: the water shimmering red in the sunlight, birds circling around the towers of `taj mahal´ to our left & monkeys hopping from tree to tree on our right. in the background we could hear soft voices singing tantras in a near-by temple & locals talking to each other in hindi. once again this day we were overflown with joy & gratefulness. we sat down at the river & for a long time just watched & soaked it all in. when the sun was almost all gone two school boys came up to us & we started talking in english. i was amazed by how well they could speek & we communicated almost without any difficulties. they were interested & curious & it felt so good to get into touch with the locals without any pressure or stress for the first time. after the sun went down we walked back home together: the boys by bike & us walking next to them, talking & laughing from time to time: it must have made quite a cute picture: us four on our way home. before we parted they asked if they could take a selfie with us & of course we said yes. we got asked for photos so often in the past few days: i sometimes felt like a film star in the wrong film honestly :)) i guess indians are not really used to white people visiting their country. now the very last thing we needed this evening was something to eat & so we went down the street of our hostel to find a restaurant & we found `joney’s place´ !! it was the best choice: the cook came out of his tiny little kitchen & welcomed us warmly. he brought mango juice which was absolutely delicious & told us about his grandpa who owned this place once & about how proud he was to keep up the tradition of cooking good food for people who love good food. well he was at the right address here & us too lol :)) we tried the two typical indian dishes `malai kofta´ & `paneer pasanda´ together with butter naan bread & more mango juice & it was absolutely delicious !! this was one of the best days ever really !! the next day we had breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hostel & then went to visit the `taj mahal´ which was an experience for itself: such an impressive & immense building: it really took my breath away. we walked through the beautiful park & couldn’t take our eyes off the building which in fact is a mausoleum & was built as a symbol of love in 1632. right when we walked inside of the mausoleum it started to rain heavily & all the visitors fled under trees or hid beneath the huge white stone walls. lucky us we could seek shelter in a mausoleum lol :)) in the evening we enjoyed hanging out with the other travellers from the hostel: we played music, drank kingfisher beer (the original & very tasty indian beer) & talked about our future plans. wow how I missed these hostel vibes !! for dinner we went to `joney’s place´ again of course & we were welcomed like old friends already :)) `agra´ really surprised me in any way possible: it felt so good to escape the hugeness & hectic of `new delhi´ but then again so much happened to us in `agra´. somehow it felt like india was challenging us on our first days & was now saying `alright you got it there you go´ & well this is exactly what we are doing. so right now we are sitting in the next train (took the 3A ticket again of course) from `agra´ to `jaipur´ & i am writing all this thinking about what the fuck already happened in our one week in india & about how happy i am right now !!

2o.o7.2o22 • Jaipur

we arrived in `Jaipur´ right in the second it started to pour down rain from the sky like waterfalls. we jumped out of the train & hid under the roof of the train station with hundreds of other people who were trying not to get soaked. one guy from the crowd suddenly came up to us cheered & smiled & told us thank you because we were the ones bringing good luck to `Jaipur´ as with our arrival the rain everyone here was desperately waiting for so long finally started. i liked that thought of us as lucky charms of `Jaipur´, smiled back at him & said you are welcome :)) but indeed the rain had something especially calming & the people around us were looking at the heavy rain with joy on their faces: it was finally cooling down for a bit !! the streets were flooded, the traffic stuck & the taxis stuffed with people on their way home. we waited for about ten minutes to see if the the rain would eventually stop at one point but it just kept pouring & so we decided to take a tuktuk to our hostel: an adventurous decision :)) our driver told us it wouldn’t be an easy ride but he would get us to our hostel safe & sound & so we took off into the flooded streets of `Jaipur´ lol what a beginning !! the streets were pure chaos: cars were stuck, busses were honking like crazy to get through & rikshaws couldn’t move in the mud. we were lucky our driver was an experienced one who managed to navigate through the traffic jam like a sneaky snake sliding through the streets & we didn’t get stuck one single time even though the water was flowing into the tuktuk & the motor made some very alarming noises but in the end we made it. our hostel in `Jaipur´ called `Pachamama Hostel´ was the perfect rest base & chill out area for us in the next few days or as the hostel owner told us `all shanti here´ (shanti means peace) & indeed the hostel had an especially calm & peaceful vibe. we made ourselves comfortable on the rooftop terrace full of cushions, chatted with other travellers & then had delicious lentil daal for dinner all together. we had a good sleep that night & woke up at around ten am the next day. that defintely was much needed :)) then we went out for breakfast & got ready to explore the inner city !! `Jaipur´ is famous for its handcrafted pottery, jewelry, clothing, wood works, ceramics, paintings & anything else you could imagine: a real shopping hotspot for handmade stuff of any kind in india !! market strolls therefore are an essential part of visiting `Jaipur´ right next to admiring the red stone architecture which is typical for the rajasthan region where `Jaipur´ is located in. we also visited the `City Palace´ which contains a museum for indian arts as well as selected local art stores & galleries. another huge highlight of our stay in `Jaipur´ was the so-called `Amber Palace´ which is located a little outside of the city & in the middle of green hills. we went to the base of the palace by tuktuk & then hiked up towards the top of the palace from where we were rewarded with quite a pretty good view. once again india opened up to us in a wholly new & different way: i just love how this country manages to surprise us over & over again !! on our return from `Amber Palace´ we stopped at the famous `Jal Mahal´ (which means water palace) located in the middle of the `Man Sagar´ lake: it was such a special sight. the water palace seemed to be burning in the red evening light while the deep blue water was floating all around it. however, what made me sad to see was all the trash lying around on the waterside. trash is one of the main problems in india in general: as there is nothing such as garbage collection or trah disposal in this country it is up to the people to get rid of it. in effect they just throw their trash on the streets or pile up huge trash hills on the streetsides as there is no other option. we couldn’t imagine this in austria or germany but here in india it is the normal thing to do: what you don’t need anymore you throw away no matter where. it is hard to see really & yet there is nothing we can do about it besides not throwing our own trash on the street. i wonder if this is going to change someday or if the trash hills are only gonna get bigger & bigger. anyway, i don’t want to downgrade india in any way here. it is different to anything i used to know & somehow i must learn to accept that & wow i am learning so much day by day !! on our last evening in `Jaipur´ we had the most delicious dinner with tikka masala curry, rice, roti & mango lassi in the city center. afterwards we strolled along the main market street towards the metro station when someone suddenly shouted at us: `hey hallo alles klar ?! kann ich sprechen deutsch mit ihnen ?! ich spreche deutsch ein bisschen.´ it was the first time we heard an indian person speaking german so we turned around & a young man with a big smile approached us. his name was malik, he was living in `Jaipur´ & his hobby was travelling as he told us. he loved travelling because like that one could meet so many new cultures & people. he had learned english, german, italian, spanish, french & russian in watching youtube videos in original languages & for some time we talked in a mix of different languages & wow he was speaking all of them so well !! however, he told us other than india he had only been to russia once in his lifetime but nowhere else. it was his dream to once travel to europe & to speak to the people there. a dream of many indians he told us but hard to realize as only applying for a visa is extremely hard with an indian passport. we had no idea. travelling wasn’t hard at all for us & malik admired us for that. for about an hour we talked about the world & us & about india & austria & we teached him a few more words in german which made him really happy. it was so interesting for us to get a grasp of the indian way of living & thinking. for many indians travelling to europe is a life goal. something only the very best achieve. so only in talking to us for a little his big dream started to come a little closer already & we were more than happy to share our world with him !! in the end he wished us safe travels wherever we would go & we wished him best of luck for his dream to come true.

22.o7.2o22 • Pushkar

namasté. namasté is sanskrit & expresses an ordinary indian greeting towards a person or a group & is also a way of honouring the vis-à-vis. namasté is made up of namás which means obeisance in sanskrit & te which means you. it is used in whole india as a daily greeting on the street & yet we heard it for the first time when we entered the holy city called `pushkar´. there are several holy cities in india & `pushkar´ is one of them. coming from `jaipur´ we had to travel to `ajmer´ by train & then take a mini van to get to `pushkar´ which is a tiny town hidden between three hills & located around a little lake in the middle. of course the lake is holy, too !! we came here because we were wondering what a holy place would look like & also because we needed a little break from the big city alias the chaos of `jaipur´. what attracted my attention first was the huge amount of cows standing or lying on the streets, slowly chewing some green grass & seemingly not being bothered by the traffic around them. cows are literally everywhere in `pushkar´ & of course they are holy, too !! cows are seen as holy creatures in whole india & people here would never kill a cow or even eat beef. cows are sacred & little statues of them can be found in every little shrine or temple & wow there are many of those in `pushkar´ !! but indians don’t eat a lot of meat in general. in fact india has more vegetarians than the rest of the world together, crazy right ?! instead of meat they comsume a lot of rice & potatoes & curries, of course :)) oh & while we are at it: here are some more random facts about india i found out about on our journey so far. there are 22 official languages in india plus hundreds of inofficial ones as the indian language differs from region to region. still the two main languages in india remain hindi & english whereas the three most spoken ones are hindi, bengali & marathi: english in fact is not that popular at all !! another thing i didn’t know about until a few days ago is the indian way to say yes: they simply shake their heads as if they were saying no. well in india it’s the other way round i guess: just as so many other things in this country :)) also what i mentioned just today is that on every single rupee note there is the image of mahatma gandhi on it: why ?! because he was kind of the key figure of the indian independence fight from britain & most indians still are extremely proud of him. on our journey we already watched several movies filmed in india & the biographic movie of gandhi was one of the best ones i have ever seen !! other indian movies i can highly recommend are `life of pi´ a fantastic story of an indian boy, `mumbai hotel´ based on a true terrorist attack in `mumbai´ in 2oo8 & `slumdog millionair´ which sets a focus on the slum culture in india & on how to possibly escape it. all of them are very intense & sometimes even shocking stories but still: they show a primary part of india as it is !! oh & indian literature must not be forgotten either: i am currently reading the novel `the ministry of utmost happiness´ by the indian feminist author arundhati roy which brings together indian history & current problematics of our society. but back to our journey now: in `pushkar´ we stayed in the cute `moustache hostel´ which is located near the lake & has a huge rooftop terrace with a good view all over the town. we loved spending our free time up there, reading, drinking fresh watermelon juice (my latest fav drink) or simply watching all the many monkeys chasing each other on the rooftops: a real show !! in the evening we strolled around the lake (all barefoot of course as the area near the lake is sacred & shouldn’t be stained in any way) passing all the beautiful & colorful shrines decorated with flower chains & orange om flags & watching the people bathing in the lake while indian music & the sound of drums was floating over the lake: it felt a little holy indeed !! at around seven pm we watched the sunset from a little bridge together with all the locals gathering on the lake side as well: the soft sound of music, the smell of roasted corn cobs & the red evening light wrapping us in an especially calm atmosphere & right then we could feel the magic of this place. i don’t believe in a certain religion but i do believe in my feelings & this moment there by the lake felt very special to me !! this special way of `pushkar´ would again surprise us the next day at the lake when we were introduced to a spiritual ceremony which is very common in holy places. we sat down next to the water with closed eyes & rose leaves in our hands. an old man from the temple was slowly singing vedic words & looked up into the sky before he dipped his finger into a red paste & marking us both with a red little line on our foreheads. in the end we had to put the rose leaves into the water & watch them floating away into the middle of the lake. as a sign of succesfully attending a holy ceremony he wrapped a red band around our wrists which we still are wearing. it’s our (sacred) little reminder of `pushkar´ now. yet another very special feeling reached me on our last evening in `pushkar´ when we hiked to the top of one of the three mountains where the peak is marked with a buddhist temple instead of a christian cross. the evening sun illuminated the white walls of the temple & the wind made the buddhist flag flutter in the cool evening breeze. people were sitting inside of the temple, praying & singing slow mantras. we sat outside & watched the busy town to our feet. the mountain is not very high yet everything down there felt miles away. it was just us, the wind & india all around us. we felt so connected with our surrounding at that point even the birds seemed to know what we were feeling !! & so we sat there watching the sun go down in `pushkar´ once again & feeling so very grateful for being able to see, feel & save all this in our hearts forever.

25.o7.2o22 • Udaipur

next stop & last one for us in rajasthan was `udaipur´ the so-called city of lakes as in 1669 several lakes were artificially created in the city center. the biggest one of them is `pichola lake´ which more or less divides `udaipur´ in two parts. our hostel called `trip in´ was located in the middle of the old town, near the shore of `pichola lake´ & around 5o meters from the famous `city palace´ known as one of the biggest in india. we arrived in `udaipur´ by train again which took us around five hours from `ajmer´ & which reminded me of how snack friendly the indian culture was lol :)) indians love to snack: on the train, in the strees, anywhere. on the train station there are little food stalls every few meters offering fried potato pancakes, hot chai & chips of any taste & shape (but always spiced very well) during the train ride people walk through the compartments offering rice with chickpeas & potatoes in big buckets or carrying bottles of hot chai. however, most indian travellers bring their own lunchbox & snacks & enjoy the whole ride either talking or eating which i myself find very sympathetic :)) but once we left the train & walked into the city center of `udaipur´ we were confronted with street food stalls all over again: potatoe fritters topped with different sauces & onions seemed to be very popular here as well as chapatis filled with various vegetables. the smell in the air was delicious & we soon tried one or two street food goodies: it was so yummy !! on our food stroll we also discovered the typical indian `gulab jamun´ which are fried, sweet & soft little balls prepared in huge bowls full of fat over the open fire & served in small portions with rose & cardamom syrup (yes it sounds as delicious as it was) for me it’s the indian equivalent to `quarkbällchen´ & whoever knows me also knows that i love `quarkbällchen´ !! but enough of the food in `udaipur´ because there were other nice things to do there too except of eating the whole day :)) the city of lakes is also a city of arts: especially fine pencil drawings, colorful clothing & tailor shops are very common in this area. on our last day in `udaipur´ we bought a super small & fine drawing of a little elepant with both our names in it: a keepsake for our sake. what we also liked a lot about `udaipur´ were all the cozy rooftop terraces with some pretty good lake views & wow there were many of them !! the houses here are built very tall & therefore have five to six floors which you can climb up if you are keen enough on a `buena vista´ & yes we were :)) next to `pichola lake´ we could also spot the mighty `monsoon palace´ from above the roofs of `udaipur´ which we visited the next day on our little tuktuk tour to `badi lake´ (yes another lake but this one was even a natural one) we also went into the big `city palace´ (student discount is finally a thing here & instead of 5oo rupees we only had to pay 1oo) & were stunned by its dimensions: it surely is one of the biggest & most fascinating palaces in india !! however, one of our biggest highlights in `udaipur´ was the traditional folk dance show in the cultural center `gangour ghat´: traditionally clothed women performed different local dances to the music of two men on drums & several background singers. it was a feast watching them. their movements were especially smooth & yet perfectly coordinated & exact. their colorful dresses were almost permanently flowing around their bodies during their rotations & dance moves. they played with little bells & one of them carried several pots on her head: one pot over another & one more with every dance !! it was an incredible show & in the end the whole crowd stood up, cheered & clapped enthusiastically. wow that was quite another deep dip into indian culture for us & we enjoyed it to the fullest !! in contrast to that we also encountered something not-so-indian in `udaipur´ which was a german café called `edelweiss´ haha we couldn’t believe our eyes. in fact the café was founded by a german guy 2o years ago & now they would still serve `apfelstrudel´ & `bananenbrot´ there which we had to try of course & it really tasted like homemade pastry: yummy !! so once again i end up talking about food wow i am impressed: seems to tell a lot about my priorities :)) but please give one more try: on our last evening in `udaipur´ we hiked up to the `karni mata temple´ located on a little hill not far from our hostel. there is a ropeway headed to the peak as well but as we consider ourselves experienced hikers (or something like that lol) we made our way to the top on foot. the hike took us about one hour & we were soaked in sweat when we reached the temple but damn we felt good !! everyone was staring at us up there: not only because we were the only white ones again but also because our heads were burning red from the hill running effort :)) we didn’t really have a sunset that evening but rather a cloudy view over the city but still our little evening trip was so worth it & we felt stronger than ever: so strong that we went back down by foot again & then even further towards the `rainbow´ restaurant where we had an absolutely amazing dinner with biryani (indian fried rice) & beer (the traditional indian kingfisher beer) right next to the lake. very well deserved i would say & the perfect last evening for us in `udaipur´: rajasthan really pleased us !! now ready to travel further south alias to the economic center of india called `mumbai´ we’ll see you soon.

3o.o7.2o22 • Mumbai

with more than 2o million inhabitants `mumbai´ (also known under its colonial name `bombay´) is the second biggest city in india after the indian capital `delhi´ which counts around 32 million people at the moment & the numbers are increasing year by year. so many people in one place are almost impossible for us to even imagine: austria barely counts 9 million & that’s a whole country. indian dimensions sometimes seem quite utopistic !! yet we went to `delhi´ & felt completely overwhelmed & yet we went to `mumbai´ a few days ago & felt .. well completely overwhelmed all over again but this time it felt different somehow as `mumbai´ opened up to us in a whole different way as `delhi´ did: we are travelling through india for around 2o days now (wow time flies) which connected us to this country in a way that can only be formed through experience & well we experienced quite a lot on our travels through india already. so in the end i guess it was us who were able to open up to `mumbai´ more than we could open up to `delhi´ simply because of the time we had inbetween to get in touch with india, to get a sense for this country & its people & to get a feeling for how we ourselves could make our way through this territory full of challenges & surprises. we took the night bus (which was surprisingly comfi as we went via sleeper bus & therefore had an actual bed all for ourselves on the bus) from `udaipur´ in the state of `rajasthan´ to `mumbai´ located in the more southern state called `maharashtra´: the ride took us solid 14 hours but in the end we made it all safe & sound to our hostel in the north of `mumbai´ !! first thing to do when arriving in a new city at 8 am in the morning: going for a coffee hunt, of course :)) lucky us we found the so-called `bombay to barcelona library café´ which wasn’t too far away from our hostel & had the best coffee we had in india so far !! as indians are mostly into chai (they seem to drink it all day everyday & there even is an indian profession called `chaiwala´ which is a person selling hot chai on the streets & there actually are so many of them because they are on such high demand: wow i just love india for its madness & chai addiction) coffee places here either offer instant coffee or no coffee at all which is why we were very surprised to find a coffee spot where they actually had real good (non instant) coffee !! big thanks to `bombay to barcelona library café´ at this point for supporting viennese coffee lovers & for having such a lovely coffee place & book store. do i even have to say we went there every morning while we were in `mumbai´ ?! another thing we encountered this morning was `ladi pav´: a typical indian white fluffy bread (kind of a salty `milchbrötchen´) which we bought in a small bakery where people were already lining up to get the fresh fluffy goodness. we paid 15 rupees (almost nothing) for 6 `ladi pav´ & enjoyed them to the fluffiest uhm no fullest sorry :)) quite a good start for us & `mumbai´: even the streets seemed a little less chaotic & we could walk along without being stopped by sellers every few minutes. it felt like a real refreshment !! however, there are some dark sides of `mumbai´ too, of course & i don’t want to pass them over: almost 6o percent of the people living in `mumbai´ are stuck in slums. the biggest slum in `mumbai´ is called `dharavi´ & holds almost one million people !! it’s impossible to imagine what living there must be like & my heart hurts writing this knowing that there is absolutely nothing i can do about it. not even the government cares: there are being built huge new housing complexes all over `mumbai´ yet there is no solution for improving the situation of the poor !! money reigns the world: especially a world of corruption & human rights violations. but enough of indias dark sides. `mumbai´ actually was a very special spot for us as it was our first time at the coast of the indian ocean on our journey so far !! from `marol´ (the area where our hostel was located: in the north of `mumbai´) we took the train to the city center called `churchgate´ which took us about half an hour & 2o kilometers. of course it wasn’t a normal train ride as we know it but rather another unique experience: the trains in `mumbai´ generally have no doors & are overcrowded most of the time. in consequence people are jumping on or off the train while it’s still driving & hang out of the train with barely holding on with one hand: it’s the normal way to go in `mumbai´. no `please mind the gap between the train & the platform´ announcement lol: just a guy telling us `you gotta be quick if you want to get out at the next station´ & `you better jump off now´. well that’s what we did & we are still alive !! that’s how we made our way to `back bay´ alias to our first stop at the indian ocean in india :)) it was such a special feeling for us to be back at the sea once again. somehow just the sight of the sea always makes me feel the endless expanse of the water & of the whole world: it makes me feel so free !! after sitting at the shore of  `back bay´ for a while & looking into the distance we carried on & went into the cultural center of `mumbai´. we visited the `national gallery of modern art´ where an exhibition of indian art by the artist rini dhumal was shown. the paintings were extremely expressive & we could literally feel all the colors & shapes !! the museum even played soft indian music in the background so one could dive into the art even more: an amazing art experience for us which we didn’t expect at all !! then we went to `bademiya´ for lunch. the location is well known in `mumbai´ for its delicious seekh kebabs & so we went there to try them aswell. conclusion: not only the food was amazing but our company was, too !! an indian guy inside of the restaurant invited us to his table, made us try all the dishes he ordered & told us about kerala (where he was from) & where we should go in the south of india. he was extremely friendly, polite & helpful & in the end we ordered desserts for three. i just love such random encounters !! after this lovely lunch we went to see the famous `gateway of india´ & the `taj mahal hotel´ where the terrorist attack in 2oo8 took place: quite intense to see the building in real !! but what struck me the most was our visit at `leopold café´ located right next to the `taj mahal hotel´ where the shooting of the terrorist attack once began & where you can still see the bullet holes in the windows now !! however, the café is one of the most popular coffee places in town today & many people come here to read the daily newspapers. next to `leopold café´ there is the beginning of a huge street market where they offer almost anything: clothes, jewelry, kitchenware, fresh fruits & also books !! this was literally the first time we spotted a book store in india: they had a huge selection of modern english novels & indian literature. happy about our find we inspected all the different books when suddenly `mein kampf´ was lying there between `5o shades of grey´ & `eat pray love´. what the fuck ?! i was shocked. also because in fact this book seemed to be quite popular with indians !! in the end we bought fresh dragon fruits instead of books: it felt better that way. the next day we went to an area called `dadar´ which again was just one huge market full of people & anything you could image !! but we quite enjoyed the hustle & bustle: we strolled around, watched the people & eventually ended up in a hindu temple of the godess `ganesha´ which is one of the most important ones in the hindu religion. we walked further to `mahim bay´ another beach of the indian ocean in `mumbai´ & had a little picnic there. do you remeber the `ladi pav´ i mentioned in the beginning ?! well they offered them there as well but this time filled with potatoes & spicy sauces: it’s called `vada pav´ & it tasted even better than the `ladi pav´ itself !! 4 vada pav plus 2 little paper cups of hot masala chai (the best one we had in india so far) made it a perfect little picnic on the beach for us :)) afterwards we walked down the beach which again was full of cows lol: `no cow no way´ that’s the way of india i guess !! we really enjoyed our time in `mumbai´ & it didn’t feel stressful for us at all: we were rather surprised by its calm places & open people. on our last morning in `mumbai´ we went to `noor bakers´ (to collect some ladi pav for the way) & to `bombay to barcelona library café´ (to have one last good coffee) & then took a shared taxi to get to our next destination in india called `pune´. namasté `mumbai´ thank you for being so open & honest !!

o5.o8.2o22 • Arambol

we eventually made it to goa: to one of the most scenic places in all india & to one of the most popular holiday destinations amongst indians (well at least in high season) as we are travelling in low season alias monsoon season (as it is raining a lot) there are almost no tourists around & it is calm & kind of under crowded which we really enjoy. also we don’t mind the rain: it rather is a very welcome refreshment !! it’s our fourth day here in goa or more precisely in `arambol´ which is a small town right by the indian ocean located in the north of the indian state goa which again is known for its beautiful beaches, hippie vibes & huge parties beneath palmtrees (mostly combined with lots of drugs) however, as we are visiting india in the monsoon season we don’t have to worry about drunk party people in hostels or crowded beaches which i very much appreciate :)) travelling in low season is one of the best things in my opinion. there is no rush, no pressure, no overload but rather more of what a country really looks like. most tourist hotspots are closed in low season. what remains are the local places !! so if i have to choose between having the full range of restaurants or having to stick to one local food spot without being surrounded by crowds of tourists everyday i much prefer the second option. what i want to say: yes there might be less variety, yes there might be rain three days in a row & yes there might only be one bus a day but i cannot tell how much i enjoy the silence, the calm atmosphere, the few other tourists we meet & the many locals we get to talk to !! from `mumbai´ we went to `pune´ & then further to `arambol´ by night bus which was quite a bumpy & curvy ride (so bumby & curvy i even had to throw up on the bus lol) but somehow i managed to get some sleep & we arrived in `arambol´ without any further problems. we went straight to our hostel called `dreamcatcher house´ which is located right on `arambol beach´ (one of the most beautiful ones in goa) & were welcomed by the cutest little black & white dotted puppy named `bingo´: love at first sight. we also already knew the hostel owner from our stay in `jaipur´ where we randomly met him in our hostel there & came to talk to each other. he told us about how he travelled the world for 12 years,  then settled down in goa & built a hostel there in covid times. he said it would be very `shanti shamanti´ (the max of chilled out in indian informal language) in `arambol´ at that time of the year & oh yes it was !! he invited us for a morning coffee & we were stunned by the ocean view from our terrace !! there was nothing more but the simple sound of waves, the rustle of the sea breeze in the palmtrees & here & then a little `bingo´ demanding a play partner. it was the perfect place for us after all the hustle & bustle of the city. from on the first day we felt so refreshed, relaxed & kind of reborn really. the power of nature is not to be underestimated !! after one day of recovering from the night bus drive i suddenly felt so much energy & joy: the ocean appeared to have such a calming effect on us & we could just sit on our terrace watching the waves, reading a little & enjoying it to the fullest. it was a little like dreaming but better :)) so yes we loved our cozy place in `arambol´ & even though i could have just stayed on our sea view terrace forever we had some very exciting days going on here: i’ll tell you all about it !! day one is called the `sweet water oasis´ & soon you’ll see why. in the morning we woke up to the sound of waves & needed a few minutes to realize where we actually were. being in goa still felt like a very realistic dream. one cold shower & a little happy dance later we were ready to start the day & to explore `arambol´: we walked down the main road (too small to be called a main road in germany lol) & soon realized that most of the stores were closed. would we find a good coffee place ?! for a second i was worried but then i remembered the `shanti shamanti´ way of goa & i knew we would find something somewhere & well of course we did. the coffee was delicious & we ended up having a real brunch ordering pancakes, croissants & one slice of freshly made cheesecake (which was still warm & overwhelmingly tasty) the perfect start into our first day in `arambol´. fully energized we hit the road again & walked along the sea shore towards the north where an impressive rock formation was pointing out of the water. the sea was wild & white spume was splashing against the black rocks. it was quite a scene !! soon it also began to rain (or better to drizzle) & the sea went deep black. we enjoyed the weather & walked along until we reached another little beach where the waves crashed on the shore with a big swoosh. behind the beach we found a little lake surrounded by palmtrees: the `sweet water oasis´ !! the water was warm & calm & we instantly went for swim: it was a pleasure. as it wasn’t really deep we just floated around for a little until another indian guy came up to the lake & asked us if this was the famous `sweet water lake´. well yes it certainly was just not too famous as it was only us three by then :)) he joined our lake floating & soon we started talking about all sorts of things: he was from the east of india & currently visiting his sister & her one year old baby in goa. he worked as a screenplay writer back home & therefore pretty much loved movies & songs & stuff. he gave us a huge input on good indian movies & an insight into the way they work: there must always be at least one dance song in an indian movie to make it a proper one lol !! the scene where music plays & people start to dance is meant to transport feelings or sympathy & to drag the viewer deeper into the play (or simply to have some time to get snacks as the indian guy told us haha) we had the best time together & ended up talking about religion & politics & he told us about indian history, the fight between india & sri lanka & about the saga of rama who once built a bridge out of stones between the south of india & the north of sri lanka. we learned so many new things. even the school system in india was new to us: you choose between arts, commerce & science at the age of 16 (changing this choice afterwards can be quite hard & expensive) & amongst them science is still seen as the best & most promising choice for a good & prestigious life even though arts (including social services) is needed much more. honestly, when did a system ever make full sense ?! talking to the indian guy really opened our eyes & we got to know so much background information about india which now helps us to understand certain situations or habits in a much better way !! this little `sweet water oasis´ there wasn’t only such a beautiful natural place but also the best meet up point we could have chosen: even the sun came out for a little while :)) in the afternoon we walked back along the beach & were once again stunned by the view of palmtrees by the sea. we stopped at a little restaurant located right on the cliffs & had our first ever fish thali (seafood by the sea is a must isn’t it ?!) & it was so good !! the rest of the day we just enjoyed & relaxed & in the evening we cooked by ourselves (pasta with veggies & tomato sauce) & did a little local beer tasting: the `maka beers´ in goa are pretty good i can tell !! at 7 pm he watched the most magical burning red sunset from our terrace & once again i felt incredibly grateful & thankful: what a first day in `arambol´ but the next ones were quite ok aswell :)) day two was our `chill out day´: we had breakfast in the cute little café with the delicious cheesecake & then went for a looong beach stroll on `arambol beach´ which connects with the `mandrem beach´ in the south. we walked & walked & talked & watched the waves & the fishermen on their fishing boats & felt the sea breeze on our faces: anything else i need to say ?! it felt like we were in the right place at the right moment & of course we were indeed. right here right now: it’s all that matters. in the evening we were invited for dinner by the hostel owner & talked until late at night. we ate & laughed & everything was perfectly fine. wow we slept so good that night !! day three was an adventure day again & i call it the `mood 4 scoot´ as we rented a scooter that day. we didn’t really knew where we wanted to go but we just headed down south & always took the small streets leading us along the ocean & drove to the most scenic places like that. also there was not much traffic at all & so we could just enjoy the ride: we passed lots of cows lying on the streets but they seemed rather slow going :)) with our scooter we made it until `aguada´ that day where we had lunch (fish thali again: so yummy !!) & then returned to `arambol´ right before it started raining. just in time i would say as it was raining heavily for the rest of the day: lucky us. but going by scooter really is the way to go in goa: everyone got one & for us it was the best way to explore the surroundings of `arambol´. won’t be our last time on a scooter for sure & also it is so fun driving: i love it !! our fourth day in goa was quite sporty: we went for a hike from `arambol beach´ to `querim beach´ on a beautiful but very small hiking trail along the cliffs. the views were beyond beautiful & the whole hike was so worth it !! when we arrived on `querim beach´ the first thing we did was diving into the sea for a little cool down & it was the best feeling ever :)) then we hiked back to `arambol beach´ in flipflops & bikini lol but we made it back home in one piece: very exhausted but also very happy. we spent the rest of the day reading, writing & planning our further travel steps. in the evening we went out for a really good dinner right on the beach & said goodbye to `arambol´ as we bought a beautiful handmade dreamcatcher from a little local store. wow we had an amazing time here & as sad as it is to leave such a place i always know that experiences like this will never be forgotten but will stay forever !! & even though that day was our last one in `arambol´ it wouldn’t be our last one in goa. today we travelled from the north of goa to the south & we can’t wait to spend some more days in goa (one of our fav parts in india so far) & to enjoy the beach life in `canacona´.

o8.o8.2o22 • Canacona

our second stop in goa: `canacona´. here we stayed in a little jungle lodge called `bhakti kutir´ located between the two main beaches of `canacona´ called `palolem beach´ & `patnem beach´. for three days we called a wooden hut with outdoor shower & monkeys as neighbours our home. it was a whole new experience for us: so exposed to the power of nature but also so near to our natural surrounding. we really felt like a part of the jungle. especially in the night when we could hear the monsoon raining down on our roof in waterfalls. the jungle around us was full of sounds: animals climbing up the roof & coconuts falling down from palmtrees. it was a bunch of completely new noises we came to listen to !! one night some chipmunks even stole the rest of our nut mix which we accidently left open on our nightstand. they must have enjoyed the treat !! but all of this connected us with nature & made us realize what there actually is all around us. we felt grounded once again, reunited with earth & not at last reminded of all the luxury we mostly take for granted. is there any better feeling than taking an ice cold shower in the middle of the jungle ?! i doubt it. or wait .. maybe the best feeling rather is not to get stung by mosquitos in the night haha. a huge praise to mosquito nets at this point !! it’s a real life saver. we literally couldn’t have survived without one !! our stay at `bhakti kutir´ really was a unique & very important experience for us: it was so different, it felt so real & wow we enjoyed our little jungle nest so much. we literally felt like two baby monkeys in their natural habitat lol :)) right after our arrival in `canacona´ we went to explore `patnem beach´ where we found ourselves surrounded by nobody but a few dogs chilling on the beach. a whole beach just for us !! it was quite an unreal scene. we walked along the beach, watched the waves & felt pretty happy to be back at the sea again: goa really makes it hard not to love it !! the next day we checked out the other one: `palolem beach´ which was a little more crowded than `patnem beach´. we even spotted some humans there lol :)) the reason for that: it is possible to go swimming on `palolem beach´. the waves are way too wild on `patnem beach´ !! so we sticked to `palolem beach´ as well & explored the backwaters there. once again we made our way through the jungle, balanced over shaky bridges made of thin tree trunks & watched the fishermen cruising through the backwaters with their boats. no tourists far or wide !! we loved it. at the end of our backwater safari tour we came back to the beach again & finally went for a swim in the ocean !! such a good feeling. even some locals joined us as on our ocean swim !! in the afternoon we walked down the whole beach again & reached our jungle hut via a small path leading through the deep green outback of goa. felt like a drop out from society for a short while lol !! but sometimes i wonder how it would feel like to escape from the system for real. must be difficult & relieving at the same time. no worries mum i will always come back :)) in the evening we went to a little restaurant right by the sea where we had some amazing seafood dishes like baked prawns & fried kingfish. really enjoyed that petit gourmet voyage !! the next morning we went on a beach walk again. it was still early & the sea was all covered in mist. a beautiful sight. so calm & quiet. we walked & watched when suddenly within seconds it started to rain heavily. just indian monsoon season i guess :)) we decided it was time for coffee. lucky us we found `the mill´ alias a cute little coffee place in the heart of `palolem´ the small town behind `palolem beach´. we had a long & comfi breakfast there. indian music was playing in the background & we could here the hard rain outside. it felt so cozy & as it was gonna rain for the whole day we decided to stay here for a bit: reading, planning our next steps & just enjoying the atmosphere. that was quite a good idea as the travel planning took a little longer than expected: `hampi´ would be our next stop. but getting there was another problem !! luckily we met a spanish couple in the coffee shop who also wanted to go to `hampi´ & helped us. together we figured out a good way & booked the train for the following day. our next destination was settled: we felt curious about the awaiting journey & sad at the same time about leaving the seaside as `hampi´ is located in the inland of india. however, we would surely come back to the sea again !! the most southern state of india called `kerala´ is still waiting for us & there we will see the sea again for sure. goodbye goa & goodbye seaside (just for now) soon off to `hampi´ alias one of the most beautiful unesco world heritage sites in whole india: can’t wait !!

12.o8.2o22 • Hampi

hey there `hampi´ !! back in one of the holy cities of india once again: our second one after `pushkar´ & once again a very special atmosphere opened up when we arrived in the holy city of `hampi´. we took the tuktuk from the train station into town & then walked to our hostel. it was early afternoon, the sun was shining & the wind was blowing quite strongly. huge temples & towers piled up to our sides & the golden color of the stones reflected in the sunlight. monkeys made their way through the streets next to cows & zebus (a typical indian cow race with a big hunch on their shoulders) a little herd of goats passed by as well. once again we were surrounded by a totally different world. from one second to the other we felt miles away from the easy going art of life in goa & were fascinated by the spiritual & intense feeling that caught us in `hampi´. even though it is a very small town there is tons to do & see there. archeological ruines can be found all around `hampi´ as well as beautiful stone formations: the natural round red rocks out of sandstone draw the main part of the landscape in karnataka (the indian state beneath goa) & especially in the region of `hampi´. the land literally consists of palmtrees, banana plants & red round rocks with the tiny town of `hampi´ in the middle & hundredes of temples & ruins spread all over the place. a real explorer’s paradise !! we were stunned by the whole new look of this part of the country: india can be so completely different inside of itself. no more sea now but rather rocks: ok we are ready !! we checked into our lovely little hostel right next to `hampi bazaar´ one of the biggest archeological ruins & then went for a little walk through the few narrow streets there are in `hampi´. we spotted all kinds of animals mostly dogs, cows, monkeys, chipmunks, goats & also big black water buffalos !! there is a river right next to `hampi´ called `tungabhadra´ which carries a lot of water during this time of the year & attracts all kinds of animals. but also people gathered at the river side to catch fish or just to sit there & watch the currents. we joined them for a while. then we went back into town, the red sand burning on our faces as the wind still blew like crazy & then went up to a cute rooftop restaurant for a little afternoon break. the restaurant was equipped with colorful carpets & cushions on the floor & small tables so one could sit or even lie on the floor which was extremely comfortable. the view from the terrace was amazing as well !! we could see so many temples just sitting there. wow we were stunned by `hampi´: so small yet so fascinating & full of surprises !! so we were sitting there on our rooftop terrace, soaking up all the newness around us & then we even got to taste it lol: we ordered fresh banana lassi (it’s a must drink in india as the baby bananas taste so good there) & another south indian specialty called rice pudding. doesn’t sound that special i know but wow it was !! indian rice pudding is simply made of rice, milk, sugar, almonds, cashews, cardamom & a pinch of salt & it tastes absolutely amazing. in fact it tastes like the indian malasa chai only it’s a little sweeter & of a creamy consistency: well we definitely found our new fav dessert right there !! lucky us the owner of the restaurant shared the recipe with us so we can prepare it when we get back home again: let me know if you would like to try a spoon or two :)) together with a good fruit lassi it’s a real feast trust me !! but enough of the tasty side of `hampi´ let’s get to the smelly side lol: `hampi´ is also known for its incense stick production which is why after our rooftop terrace chillout we visited a tiny little incense stick factory in our street where we could watch the production process. it was so interesting as i’ve never seen something like it before !! there are so many different aromas, scents & smells: so many possible combinations of creating a certain atmosphere through incense sticks: it really impressed me !! of course we bought some sticks there as well: sandal wood, rose & lotus flower (a good mix pro harmony & anti mosquitos) after this smelly excursion we eventually returned to the tasty one & had dinner at `mango tree´ the most popular food spot in `hampi´ where locals sit on bamboo mats & drink their ginger mint juice (another `hampi´ special) we joined the locals & really had the very best south indian thali there (with various chutneys, dips & sauces served with jasmin rice & chapati) it was delicious !! but talking about chapati: did you know there are more than 15 different sorts of indian bread ?! chapati is just one of them & actually the most basic one: there is also naan, roti, dosa, paratha, pani etc. :)) oh yes in the beginning i was confused, too !! but learning by doing i guess: you just gotta try them all & find out what you like best. for me it’s the butter naan or simply a plain paratha: still all the indian breads taste amazing & go well with any kind of indian dish !! but let me tell you about our first real day in `hampi´ now: it was finally time for a temple tour alias a hiking excursion through the archeological ruins of holy `hampi´. we started off with a quick breakfast at `ganesha´ (it’s a cute little café in our street named after an important indian goddess in the shape of a dancing elephant) & set off for the `hampi temple´ the oldest & highest one in `hampi´. it’s more or less a huge tower of red stone rising into the sky, opening up a small passage on its base & forming the entrance to a large temple complex stretching out behind. we took off our shoes (as it must be done when entering a holy area) & deliberately made our way through the stone gate. a cow was waiting for us on the inside: she was beautifully dotted in brown & white & just standing right there in the middle of the temple looking at us. i don’t know why she stood there. maybe she was just waiting for us. i strocked her for a bit, then she licked my hand & walked out of the temple. people in india say cows are holy beings: so maybe i was being blessed by the cow in the temple right then. somehow i like that thought & somehow it felt a little spiritual indeed :)) anyway, we made our way further through the temple, watched monks praying in front the shrines & monkeys stealing bananas that were meant as offerings to the gods. oh india can be so beautifully chaotic & at least one time a day i think: india is crazy !! it probably is anyway but i like it. aren’t we all at least a little bit crazy ?! we continued our temple tour & explored a huge green hill area full of old ruins & impressive rock formations. monkeys were sitting everywhere & watching us carefully. eventually we found a hiking trail which we followed until we reached another amazing location full of stone art & architecture which very much reminded me of `angkor wat´ a beautiful old temple in thailand. then we took a right turn to hike up `matanga hill´ the highest hill in `hampi´ where there is another impressive temple located on its top. when we reached the peak we were completely soaked in sweat & absolutely speechless: the view was insane !! we could see the river, the temples, the town .. everything. it was amazing !! then the priest of the temple invited us to join his prayers & together we chanted some indian mantras while he lit candles in front of a shrine dedicated to ganesha. in the end he blessed us with red dots on our foreheads & wished us a safe further journey. another unexpected event. india is pretty good in such things !! we walked down the hill again & then further until `vithalla´ where another famous temple is located. there we also had lunch in a tiny bamboo hut for 2oo rupees (ca. 2 euros) & it was one of the best indian meals we had so far: vegetable fried rice, masala dosa & several cups of hot chai, of course !! the man who cooked for us was so happy we liked his simple lunch which he prepared with the minimum of cooking equipment over the open fire. well the simple things often are the best ones. after lunch we visited the `vithalla temple´ (which had free admission because of the independence holidays: otherwise it would have cost 6oo rupees which is quite a lot for indian conditions) & then started our way back home to `hampi´ again. it was quite a march & we were passed by several tourists who chose to be transported back in golf carts but we rather walked: it felt better that way :)) we arrived in `hampi´ in the late afternoon: exhausted but happy. what a day !! we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing & reading on our fav rooftop terrace: such a good end to such a good day. the next morning woke us with sunshine. we got ready & then went to `ganesha´ again where we tried a typical indian breakfast this time which consists of  `paddu´ (little rice pancakes) & `uttappa´ (baked bread with vegetables & hot sauce) it was different but really good !! we decided to go on another tiny temple tour again & took a tuktuk to `lotus mahal´ where we explored the surroundings. however, as it was very sunny, hot & windy that day we didn’t hike as much as the day before but rather spent the afternoon in `hampi´ reading, relaxing & planning our next steps: `bangalore´ would be our next stop on our journey & we would go there by night train. another challenge for us but it would work out just fine (in fact the ride was super comfi & enjoyable & we slept the whole night) sometimes it’s easier just to try things rather than overthinking them for too long !! so here we are now: back to the big city life in `bangalore´. but wow one last huge shoutout to the holy city of `hampi´. it meant such a special place to us: so wild so crazy so different. so full of surprises. so unpredictable & unmatchable. just as india itself !!

2o.o8.2o22 • Kochi

it’s been a while but here i am alive & well & finally ready to write down some of my experiences from last week which has mildly spoken been absolutely amazing & overly overwhelming !! i simply haven’t had time to sit down & put all that into words until now. & still i haven’t really realized everything that happened. i’ve seen so much in the past week, i’ve been overflowed with so many impressions my eyes could barely take it & yet i haven’t felt that free & happy in a long time. i won’t be able to describe my feelings & thoughts in a sufficient way but i will try & give you a little insight into my current little world out here in india: so after `hampi´ we went to `bangalore´ which is one of the biggest cities in the country & is also known for its modern approach on sciences. `bangalore´ was an inbetween stop for us as the night train connections appeared to be quite good between `hampi´ & `bangalore´ & `bangalore´ & `kochi´. so this is where i want to start off right now: in `kochi´ the so-called queen of the arabian sea & the venice of south india & no these phrases don’t do justice to this city !! `kochi´ is one of the key points in kerala as it forms the center for commerce & trade & is also famous for fishing & its beautiful backwaters. however, `kochi´ is also located on the coast & so we are finally back to the sea again which i was really looking forward to !! i don’t know why but i didn’t expect much of `kochi´ probably because i thought it would be just another of these big cities but what actually awaited us was more i could ever have asked for !! kerala is the most southern indian state next to tamil nadu. also kerala is one of the rather touristy and therefore more wealthy places. commerce and tourism play a major part here and we also found ourselves confronted with many more options concerning accomodations, restaurants & tours. it was the first time i actually realized the huge differences inside of india itself: especially between the north of india & the south. the people talk another way: they seem to be more open & friendly than in the north but again that is only one indicator for the probably much harder life in the north. but i think it is very important to be aware of those gaps inside of society, to see the change & to ask oneself why that is. one should always keep track of the surrounding: it can teach you so much & it opened my eyes & my mind in a very intense way !! but back to what i actually intended talking about: kerala welcomed us with its sunny side up: we arrived in `kochi´ with blue skies & sunshine. as we took the night train from `bangalore´ to `kochi´ we had some time in the morning when we could just sit on the train, staring outside & observing the deep green inner landscape of kerala. we were already hyped by then: everything seemed so full of color, banana trees were growing everywhere & we were more than amazed by the total change of nature once again (& i was more than excited to be back by the sea again lol) so eventually we arrived in `kochi´ at 8 am (we even got morning coffee on the train which was really tasty: wasn’t expecting that haha) then we went from the train to the bus station & from there took a local bus to `fort kochi´ which is the center of `kochi´ located right by the seaside. it was the indian day of independence that day & so on our way through the city we discovered so many crowds singing together early in the morning. flags were raised & the busses were literally covered in baloons, flags & flowers in the colors of india: orange, white & green. it was such a beautiful sight !! in `fort kochi´ we went straight to our accomodation alias our first homestay on the journey (homestays are quite a big thing in kerala & i really like that) `jojie’s homestay´ was hidden inside a small street labyrinth with palmtrees & banana plants in every corner. it was only 8:3o am but we were welcomed with open arms. sophie & her husband (the owners of the homestay) felt like family from on day one: they were so caring, friendly & helpful & the sweetest hosts ever !! we could move straight into our room & instantly fell asleep for one hour. the train ride wasn’t too bad at all but still it’s just not the same as sleeping in a comfi bed :)) when we woke again we felt very hungry & ready for brunch. so we made our way into the heart of `fort kochi´ where we strolled through beautiful narrow streets again (it felt a bit like little italy tbh) & eventually found the perfect breakfast spot: kashi art café. art gallery & coffee place in one: who could say no to that ?! well i certainly couldn’t :)) we were pretty lucky we got a table for two as the independence day attracted quite a lot of people & `kochi´ was quite crowded with indian tourists that day: we sat in the sunny courtyard, soft music was playing & we had an amazing brunch with avocado toast, tofu scramble, fresh juice, iced coffee & a slice of chocolate cake to make it round lol c’etait très délicieux !! then we were ready to start the day & to go for a first exploratory walk in `kochi´. of course we went to the beach first. i was happy now :)) the deep blue water was crashing on the shore like ever before & only the sound of the waves was filling me with pure joy. we walked along the `mahatma gandhi beach´ where all the fishing boats were lying on the sand waiting for their next journey. fish was sold everywhere: fresh from the boat !! however, there are several ways to catch fish in kerala: traditionally by boat or with chinese fishing nets that are fixed in one place on the shore & can be brought up & down. it was the first time i ever saw this chinese technique !! funny they use it here in kerala i thought but in fact they’ve been using these nets in `kochi´ for ages & also i was told that `kochi´ provides a perfect place to use this fishing method. i was amazed: the nets somehow looked so aesthetic (you’ll find a pic of it under this post) i really liked the sight of them !! then we walked further to `fort kochi beach´ watched the waves & the people. we enjoyed the sun & the sea breeze & felt really happy about being in `kochi´. everything felt so open & wide & fresh & even though `kochi´ is quite a big city it didn’t feel like that at all: it rather seemed like a tiny fisher village :)) another new thing we discovered on the beach were the many light green wate plants floating on the ocean. they simply grow on the water: funny right ?! they are spread all over the beackwaters of kerala as well & sometimes create quite a struggle for the local ferries but still they look very pretty :)) after our long beach walk we went to a place called `fusion bay´ to try the local fish: it’s a must do by the sea right ?! our hosts recommended this place to us as it serves fresh fish every day, prepares delicious traditional dishes & is very popular with locals: well they didn’t promise too much. we had the best seafood platter with portugese rice & fried fish at `fusion bay´ & rolled back home afterwardss for a little siesta. we spent the afternoon reading & recovering from good food lol but there would wait something very special for us again in the evening: a real kathakali show !! kathakali is a typical art of dance & performance in kerala where the actors are wrapped in very costly clothing & their faces are painted in intense colors. only the preparation for the show would already take one whole hour !! then the actors dance to indian music & tell a story through their performance: without saying a word but rather with moving their eyes, hands & feet in a very fast & specific way. we couldn’t take our eyes off the actors !! it was such a special show & i’ve never seen something like it before: in fact i didn’t even know that people are able to performe such crazy & intense movements !! we were completely dazzled after the show: what a crazy first day in `kochi´ !! but the second day started with another surprise as we spontaneously decided to go for a morning meditation. at 8 am we went to the local arts & culture center where we were welcomed with candle light & incense smells: we sat down on our meditation cushions & then the music started to play. it was just us two, one man singing & playing the sitar (a traditional indian instrument resembling a guitar) & another man playing the small indian drums that sound like waterdrops. for one hour we just sat there listening to the sounds of instruments & vocals & slowly sank into the sounds of water & wind of land & sea .. we lost ourselves in the sounds of india for a while. when it ended we felt like waking up for real .. like we haven’t been awake before: we felt so good !! this meditation is called morning raga in india & we were more than thankful we had the chance to experience such thing: couldn’t imagine a better way to start a new day. at 9 am we returned to our homestay just 1o minutes away & were already awaited with coffee & breakfast: sophie prepared a special kerala omlette (fried in coconut oil & served with fresh pineapple) for us & treated us with homemade specialties like only a real mum would !! after this little feast we went to `mattancherry´ which is the area next to `fort kochi´ & which is known for all its local arts & crafts. especially woodworks are a big thing here !! we strolled around, looked at various galleries & shops, had fresh juice by the seaside & visited the so-called `dutch palace´ which was built by the portugese armada in 1555. a little throwback in time !! then on our way back home for siesta (it was a really hot day) i made another great encounter: a parotha factory. did i already mention i love parotha ?! it’s the best indian bread: crispy & chewy at the same time & so tasty !! now you can probably tell i was quite stoaked when we saw the small bakery baking nothing but fresh parotha right from the oven :)) one parotha for 5 rupees (ca. 10 cents) i couldn’t say no to that kind of offer, of course !! we filled our bellies up with parotha (probably the best we ever had) & then spent a rather lazy afternoon at our homestay. it really felt like a little home for us. the next day we went to kashi art café for breakfast again & just as last time it was absolutely delicious. then we went to the ferry stand of `fort kochi´ & from there took the ferry to `kalamukku´ the peninsula right accross the sea passage (we paid 3 rupees for the ferry ride: less than the price of one parotha lol) `kalamukku´ is the fishing area par excellence. we walked along the seaside with the chinese fishernets every few meters & watched the nets going up & down & the fishermen securing their catch in big boxes. it was a busy work atmosphere yet it seemed so calm & natural: we really enjoyed it there !! then one of the fishermen waved at us & invited us on the deck of his fishing hut with the chinese net at the end of it. we asked if we could help him & together we brought the net back into the water again. he would leave it there for 3 to 5 minutes & then pull it up again to see if any fish was inside. we talked a little & he told us about the life of a fisherman in perfect english. we listened closely & again learned so much about this life so totally different from ours !! then we pulled up the net again. we even caught some fish !! the fisherman showed us how to sort them: the good ones into the left box, shrimps into the right bix, small fish & jelly fish back into the water. i loved the way he handled the fish with a routine of ages: he was doing this for all his life !! it was such a cool experience for us helping & watching him catching fish. plus holding a jelly fish in our bare hands was quite an awesome feeling, too. i’ve never seen a jelly fish before. so many new things at once wow: i could barely keep track !! after saying goodbye to the fisherman & thanking him we continued our day tour & took the next bus to `ernakulam´ which is the commercial center of `kochi´ on the other side of the sea passage. once again we walked along the windy & sunny seaside: along markets & juice stalls & really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere on the promenade. then we decided to have a look at the famous shiva temple in town: with no expectations at all we entered the temple (without shoes of course) & found ourselves in a holy place all decorated with flowers & candles. a monk came to welcome us & showed us around the temple complex. then he told us we had come at the exact right time as `shivakumar´ was here for the week. who is `shivakumar´ we asked almost simultaneously. turns out `shivakumar´ is the most famous elephant in kerala who was currently kept in the shiva temple in `kochi´. we couldn’t believe it. a huge gray elephant stood right in front of us calmly snacking his bamboo leaves. he had a huge stall all for himself & every now & then someone from the temple would enter to bring more food & water. of course, he wasn’t living in freedom or in his natural habitat but at least he was taken very good care of & that’s what i was very glad about. we just stood there & stared at him. he was immense & as one of the monks told us he was 52 years old: not too bad for an elephant !! then the monk asked us if we would want to touch him. it would be blessing for us & for this temple. of course we did !! just for a second we touched his dry & thick skin: wow what a feeling !! i couldn’t believe i just touched a creature as big as this elephant. we brought some more greens to him & thanked the monks & then left the temple again. it felt like we had just escaped a real random movie scene !! wow we were so done & overwhelmed by all that happened to us. it was time for a snack alias the `said to be best burger in india´ at the burger junction: one indian guy we met the other day recommended the place to us & so we had to try it out & once again we weren’t disappointed !! maybe not the best burger in the whole world but maybe the best burger in india :)) thanks for the tipp rajeev !! then with full bellies & a big smile on our faces we would walk back towards the ferry point. but the day wouldn’t be done with surprises yet: i spotted the `durbar hall art gallery´ accross the street & suggested going in just to have a look. we did & well it was the very first day of a very special exhibtion with art works by nemom pushparaj who is a very well-known film director, writer & artist in india. his paintings were insane !! a mix of expressionism & surrealism. deep modern paintings broaching issues of important topics in our society: politics, climate change, covid crisis, hunger, war .. each painting stroke in another way !! i was out of words & for a while we just wandered through the gallery & looked at the walls. then a man came in & asked us how we liked the paintings. it was nemom pushparaj the artist himself who was very happy also non-indian visitors would come to see his exhibtion !! we talked a little & he showed us around. how crazy we even got to meet the one in charge of these insane paintings ?! i was done with the world haha :)) from the gallery we walked to the `subhash park´ located right by the seaside & next to the ferry point. the park was full of young adults playing music, chatting, sitting in groups & enjoying the evening sun. we sat down on a bench by the sea & took a breath: the view was so beautiful !! in front of us it was just the sea, some boats & the sun. for an hour we sat there, read a little & watched the sea. the sun slowly went down & when the golden hour glow reached us we went on to take the ferry back to `fort kochi´. we managed to get on the ferry right before it departed & slowly sailed over to the other shore. the golden sunlight filled the whole boat & when we got off in `fort kochi´ one sunray was pointing straight on my shirt with a printed sun in the middle of it. a printed little sun illuminated by the golden glow of the real sun: oh yes that day was pure sunshine for sure !! last day in `kochi´ has come already & weren’t ready to leave. however, we knew our next destnation would be amazing as well as in `allapuzha´ the backwaters were waiting for us. sophie prepared one last traditional keralan breakfast for us: dosa with coconut chutney, kerala omlette & fresh fruits. then we had to say goodbye & it was the most heartwarming farewell ever: they still waved at us when we turned around the corner. thanks so much for everything !! by bus we took on our next little trip from `kochi´ to `allapuzha´ located in the further south of kerala & in between sea & lakes. ready or not: backwaters here we come !!

22.o8.2o22 • Allapuzha

welcome to `allapuzha´: another little city located in the backwaters of kerala !! but `allapuzha´ got one special feature as well: it sits right between the allapuzha beach where you can easily go swimming (in `kochi´ it wasn’t possible to swim) & the canals of the backwaters where you can do any kind of tours like kayaking, canoeing or boating on one of the traditional keralan houseboats. there is so much to do & see in `allapuzha´ which is also why we decided to stop here for a few days even though it’s not too far away from our beloved `kochi´. we arrived at `johnson’s homestay´ (yes another homestay: it’s the thing to go in kerala) in the early afternoon. we checked into our beautiful room with a little terrace & a pretty view over the little courtyard where a brown horse was randomly standing around lol. the owner told us it was the horse of a friend he was currently taking care of: well fine for us :)) first thing we did in `allapuzha´ was of course heading to the beach !! it’s only 1o minutes walking so we made our way strolling through the canal streets of `allapuzha´ towards the seaside. we became quite hungry at that point & started looking for some snack. well we didn’t find a snack but we found `the chai wallah´ !! `the chai wallah´ is a little tea stall on wheels located next to one of the canals & serves cinnamon & masala chai to die for. no really: that small cup of cinnamon chai was the best one i’ve ever had in all india & we had tried a lot of chais so far !! with two cups of chai & two ginger cookies we continued our way to the beach. when we finally arrived & started to fell the sand under our feet the sun suddenly came out & made the sea shimmer in a bright blue color. oh i love the sea !! we walked along the beach with bare feet & soaked in the salty air. as we were still kind of hungry we kept an eye on the promenade to see if anything resembling a restaurant would appear there. we were lucky !! i spotted a small wooden rooftop terrace a little hidden by palmtrees & a sign on it saying `seashore restaurant´. that was definitely calling for us !! we went up & were welcomed by an indian nonna. some other indians were sitting on the terrace, too. we sat down & ordered some indian specialties including fresh pineapple juice & parotha, of course :)) as we waited one indian guy started talking to us & we had a lovely little conversation about cooking & favorite foods in india: he also recommended us a few places to go in & around `allapuzha´. then the food came & what can i say: nonne still make the best cooks, right ?! it was absolutely delicious & we decided to definitely come back here again. all full & ready for a little siesta we walked down the beach again & then back to our homestay where we fell asleep right away :)) after a few hours we were woken again by an intese red light shining through the window: the whole sky was burning red !! we decided to go for a little evening stroll & it was the most magical walk through town. well & of course we didn’t come back home with empty hands: we found a little fruit & vegetable chips shop on our way & the owner made us try all of them: too bad :)) in the end we decided to get some of the sweet banana chips which we snacked on our way home. wow the best chips i’ve ever had !! also, what we found out right there in the chips shop: bananas don’t only come in green & yellow color but also in red. crazy right ?! the next day was quite cloudy & not too hot which we very much appreciated because we had planned on doing a kayak tour that day. but first: breakfast !! there was a little coffee place right by the canal called `paradiso café´ & well it turned out to be our breakfast place for the next two days. the cortado coffee was just way too good to skip it as well as the yummy omlette with jam & butter toast. the best part of it: we could sit outside watching all the boats on the canal while sipping our coffee: simply the perfect place to start the day in `allapuzha´. now we were ready for kayaking !! together with an indian tour guide & three single kayaks we went off to explore the backwaters of kerala. i was more than excited !! we paddled our way through the narrow canals & were amazed by all the many plants & birds we spotted. our guide was the best: he knew everything & explained every plant, every fruit, every bird to us !! he even fought our way through the many water plants in the canals. we had a great time together. after maybe two hours we reached a huge lake called `vembanad lake´ which states the center of the backwaters in `allapuzha´. out on the lake the water was quite wild as the wind was blowing very strongly. we put on our life jackets & started to fight our way through the waves: i felt like i was lost on the ocean in a big storm. don’t get me wrong: i loved this feeling !! it was really hard & exhausting to paddle against the current & the waves but it felt so good. i felt so strong !! after half an hour we had made it to the other side of the lake. we did it !! we were all so happy & exhausted & more than ready for lunch which we had on a little houseboat right after: kerala rice was served on banana leaves together with various vegetable sauces, soy beans & pineapple sprouts. it was much needed & so good !! after our lunch stop we still had to paddle back for about one hour but we took it slow & easy & ended up arriving two hours later lol :)) the canals were just too beautiful to go through quickly & we also took another little break & sip some tender coconut on the kayak: coconut water really is the best thing to energize plus it tastes so good !! at 4 pm we eventually arrived at our starting point: we had been on the water for 5 hours. what a crazy experience !! we were so happy but so exhausted at the same time. so after clearing the kayaks & thanking our guide we went straight back home for a little nap. in the evening we went to the beach again, watched the cotton candy sky & had dinner at the `seashore restaurant´ again: we tried the homemade chilly chicken with tapioka mousse & once again it was delicious !! our last day in `allapuzha´ turned out to be a sunny one again. so after we went to our breakfast spot by the canal we took a tuktuk to `marari beach´ which is located further north. from there we walked down the beach, watched the waves & finally went swimming. what a blast .. the water was nice & cool & so refreshing !! then we found two deckchairs in the shadow of a palmtree & decided to make this our siesta spot on the beach. it was perfect. nobody around but us the palmtrees & the waves in front of us. now & then a stray dog showed up & lay down beside us. it was the perfect place to chill out & drift away in day dreams. after reading & dreaming for a while we continued our beach walk. we passed fishing boats & birds snacking fish out of the water & eventually arrived in the next city called `kattoor´ where we took another tuktuk back home: we had been walking for around 3 hours !! not too bad i’d say :)) back home we had a little afternoon snack: hot chai & baked banana (everything with banana tastes so incredibly good here: i don’t know why) & then took another little nap. in the evening we went to the beach for one last time: we had a sundowner beer, watched the waves & when the sun went down we visited the `seashore restaurant´ for one last time as well. nonna was already waiting for us. she had prepared grilled calamari specially for us. thank you so much it was more than delicious !! then it was time to say goodbye to `allapuzha´ again. our next destination would lead us further into the deep jungle of kerala & we were more than excited what would be waiting for us there !!

25.o8.2o22 • Varkala

lots of greetings from `varkala´ alias another cute seaside city in the south of kerala !! it’s our last full day here today & even though we didn’t spend that much time here we really liked this calm place by the cliffs. but what i would like to start with actually is our stay in `munroe island´: a spontaneous stop inbetween `allapuzha´ & `varkala´. `munroe island´ is located in the deep backwaters of kerala & counts to the most remote places of the country. it’s just woods, lakes & rivers there. plus lots of exotic animals & jungle plants !! we knew about this special island only because our hosts in `kochi´ told us about the amazing homestay there. so we took their advise & went from `allapuzha´ to `chavara´ by bus & then to `munroe island´ first by tuk-tuk & then by ferry & eventually we arrived in the `munroe island backwaters homestay´ in the late afternoon. in the beginning we couldn’t quite realize where we were: wild green nature all around. also the homestay lies right by the so-called `kallada river´ which flows into the huge `ashtamudi lake´ on the other side of the island. we literally felt like arriving in paradise. everything looked so pure: almost untouched !! it was the perfect escape from anything that would connect us to the modern world which often tends to cause chaos & stress. at least in one own’s mind. but here in the middle of `munroe island´ all of this was gone with the wind & what remained simply were the sounds of nature & the ultimate connection with the origin of life itself. `munroe island backwaters homestay´ was the most cozy cave to rest our minds & to regain a certain clearness. hanging around in one of the hammocks on the rooftop terrace & watching the palmtree leaves shaking in the wind could bring me back to myself like nothing else could. it was a place where we felt comfi, secure & welcome: from on the very first moment !! vijeesh (the owner of the homestay) was the most funny & friendly indian guy we had ever met: we felt familiar with each other from on the first joke. on our first evening in `munroe island´ we went out on the river with the stand up paddle boards. the golden sunlight was shining down on the slowly flowing river & we paddled down along the palmtree seamed shore together with the current. it was just us three on the whole river & we simply had the best time together !! we jumped from the boards into the water, dived deep & swam like little fish in the big ocean. i could almost touch the feeling of freedom. it felt so good to let go of any worries & to just be right there in the moment. a moment full of fun & joy & simple happiness i guess !! we swam & paddled until the sun went down behind the tops of the palmtrees & even further. when it got colder we eventually rowed back to the shore: all wet & exhausted but pretty damn happy. what a great experience !! stand up paddle boards are quite a cool thing. then it was time for dinner which was already arranged on the rooftop terrace of the homestay when we came back. as the homestay is a one family business & the meals are freshly homecooked by the mum of vijeesh every day the dinner was a total taste treasure !! fried bananas, rice noodles, vegetable curry, fish fry, beetroot chapati, onion chutney & many more delicious keralan specialties were waiting for us & we inhaled them in like 1o minutes or so. it was just way too good !! wow keralan food really is the best in all india .. maybe in the world ?! no just kidding mum: nothing can top your tortilla :)) the next day we were woken by heavy rain outside. so we just turned around & slept for one more hour haha :)) the original plan was going for a sunrise kayak tour at 5 am but we skipped that because of the bad weather forecast: good decision. when we finally crawled out of our nest it was still raining & we slowly started the day with a sweet breakfast (pancakes filled with coconut, banana & honey) & hot coffee. then we decided to chill out on the roofed rooftop terrace for a while to write & read & simply to do nothing specific for at least one forenoon. wow that felt good indeed: especially with the soft sound of rain in the background. when it finally stopped to pour down water from the sky at around noon we hit the road by foot & walked through small jungle paths towards the lake on the other side of `munroe island´. we strolled along the many water canals, crossed many more bridges & watched even more canoes floating on the backwaters. what a calm atmosphere. everything just goes as fast as the current itself: the perfect speed in fact !! when we finally reached the lake we were stunned by the wide water views. we just stood there & watched when finally an indian woman came up to us, smiled & told us we looked so beautiful & cute together. well thank you !! cutest compliment ever :)) slowly we made our way back to the homestay again & after a little stop for chai & pav (savory bread roll) we took a tiny siesta to recover from our intense expedition. no just joking: it was just a very nice walk but siesta is always a good idea right ?! in the afternoon another family & two friends arrived at the homestay (all french) & together we decided to go on a canoe trip through the canals of `munroe island´. the weather looked well & so we took off by boat together with our captain called vijeesh. he managed to navigate a boat filled with 7 people only with a long wooden stick. it’s the traditional keralan boating technique he told us & damn he was good at it !! he even took part in boat racings once he told us so he had quite some practice with it. for a few hours we floated through the most narrow canals & listened to the backwater sounds. we even saw kingfisher (the birds not the beer) & sea eagles !! when we reached `ashtamudi lake´ everyone went swimming while the sun slowly set. we were quite a funny crew & had so much fun together !! then we got ready for the return trip again as it was already getting dark. we floated back on the black water of the backwaters & after ages i finally saw some fireflies again !! it made me so happy: somehow i can remember seeing them as a kid. but then i have never seen them again & now here they were flying around me. magic in the air !! then just a few miles before our final destination it started to rain heavily again & within seconds we were all soaking wet again. we could only laugh about it: what a perfect timing haha !! back in the homestay we dried it up & then had dinner all together: just as our first one it was more than delicious & afterwards we played cards & tried fresh ginger lemon mocktails made by vijeesh. what a beautiful evening !! the next morning the whole crew had breakfast together again & then went for a village walk. the owner was our self-proclaimed tour guide & showed us all the special plants growing in the jungle of `munroe island´. did you know green pepper, ginger roots & even nutmeg is growing here ?! furthermore we spotted clove & papaya trees & two special keralan plants called mimose & drumstick. almost all of it is edible !! how can nature be so full of beauty & nourishment at the same time ?! the tamarind tree is another highlight of the keralan woods & its small seeds is used in many indian meals. we also got to know the beautiful so-called bird of paradise flower which shines in a big bright red & another very well smelling plant called wild krishna basil. wow my craving for a tomato mozzarella salad increased right there lol :)) last but not least we discovered the tapioka plant which we had already tried in `allapuzha´ & right then i realized why it seemed so familiar to me: tapioka is called yuka in south america & i have had quite a lot of yuka there as it is used in many south american meals !! after this botany excursion we went to see something very special: a coconut rope factory. i didn’t even know something like that existed !! but in fact the fiber of the coconut works perfectly well for making very strong ropes. we got the possibility to watch the whole process & the women working there: i was impressed by how quick they could make one rope out of the tiny fibers. no easy work for sure & they were probably doing this all day every day. but still they were smiling & happy to see us. they showed us how to put the fibers together to get a good rope in the end & we tried to do it as well as them. no chance !! it was such an interesting experience to get an insight in a process like that. i would never have known how to do something like it. i felt so much respect for those women working there almost all their life. before we left the factory again we gave some chocolate cookies & coconut chips to them as a little thank you which made them very happy. it’s so little in return yet it’s something & that something made them smile: so it was definitely worth it. we also visited a cotton yarn factory that day where many women were working as well !! a whole new process & so much work for just a tiny little bundle of white yarn. wow it was such an eye-opening experience for me for sure. we left them some snacks we had bought before as well & they were waving at us when we left the factory again. these work places surely weren’t the worst ones in india & yet it changed a lot for me. simply in seeing the way of women working here once again showed me where i was now & where i was coming from. miles of differences all the way !! made me think. in a good way. made me appreciate. we moved on & slowly made our way back to the homestay. we just stopped for a little snack inbetween: red bananas (they really are especially tasty & sweet) & spicy chilly mocktails from `munroe mocktails´ where a friend of vijeesh worked. he prepared the most fruity & spicy drinks for us which were so good & refreshing !! thanks for the boost :)) back home we all were ready for a little nap before we had one last amazing dinner on the terrace. wow what a crazy time !! we deeply enjoyed our stay at `munroe island backwaters homestay´: it’s just such a special place & i would recommend going there to anyone visiting kerala. the next day alias the day of our departure was all covered in rain again !! but nothing that could stop us, of course :)) after breakfast we said goodbye to the french crew & to the homestay family & left `munroe island´ by canoe. what a way to escape paradise haha !! then we took the train to `varkala´ which only took around one hour & which is where we are right now :)) `varkala´ is beautifully located on top of the cliffs above `varkala beach´ & the first thing we did when arriving here was of course walking along the `varkala cliff trail´ which really is a very beautiful & scenic way along the coast. it’s all chilled surf & turf vibes here in `varkala´ & we really enjoyed being back to a more .. well civilized surrounding :)) so today we had the best breakfast at `café sarwaa´ with an epic view all over the sea & then hiked down the cliffs to hop into the wild `varkala´ sea: afterwards we strolled through town, visited the famous `sri krishna temple´ & checked out a book store where i found the only novel by martin suter i haven’t read so far called the elephant !! finally some new reading material :)) well & right now i’m gonna finish this post quite quickly so we can go to the sea again, have some fresh mango juice & i can start reading my new book: that’s about the plan for today & tomorrow we’ll be going on a yoga vacation to the `sivananda yoga vedanta dhanwantari ashram´ for three days & i already am more than excited about all the experiences we are gonna gain there !!

3o.o8.2o22 • Madurai

i’m currently sitting in the train from `madurai´ to `pondicherry´ & finally found some time to write down a few impressions from our last three days which we spent in the so-called `sivananda yoga vedanta dhanwantari ashram´ in `neyyar´ a small town about one hour east from the capital of kerala called `thiruvananthapuram´ or short `trivandrum´. we arrived in `neyyar´ by bus on friday the 26th of august at 2 pm. from the bus station we walked up a small hill & then further through the woods until we reached a red stone arche with the inscription `sivananda sharam´ we made it !! slowly we walked up the stairs & found ourselves in a huge area filled with green gardens, big halls & beautiful temples. we were already awaited at the reception. a young indian woman helped us with the check-in where we had to fill out a sheet with all our data & to talk to a doctor of the ashram to check on our physical ability to practise yoga & meditation. then she showed us around the ashram: next to reception the so-called siva hall was located. siva hall was the main meeting point in the ashram & the place where the daily satsang would take place. we didn’t know what satsang meant by then but we would find out about it very quickly. beneath siva hall there was another one called dhanwantari hall where yoga practise & meditation lessons were held. we walked further to the dining hall: here we would be provided with two daily meals: breakfast at 10 am & dinner at 6 pm. above the dining hall there was a huge rooftop terrace overlooking the whole valley around the ashram. it was beautiful: next to the small village of `neyyar´ a wide lake spread out between tiny hills & farmland. most of the landscape was covered in green. we really were somewhere out nowhere stranded in a little oasis of peace. after our welcome tour we got equipped with bedsheets, mosquito nets, pillow & blanket & then two women showed us to our rooms. men & women have sperate rooms in the ashram so we went into different acccomodation buildings where we were shown our bed & had some time to settle in & rest. before we were left alone the women gave us a flyer with the daily ashram schedule on it & our personal silver plate together with one spoon & one cup which we were meant to bring with us to each meal. it was 3 pm by then & according to the flyer another asana yoga class would start in 30 minutes. we got dressed up in wide & comfi clothes & ready for our first yoga class in the ashram. `om nama shivaya´ was the first thing we heared when entering the yoga class room. this hindi expression not only expresses the general greeting used in any sivananda ashram but also shows respect to the person vis-à-vis. `om nama shivaya´ we responded & bowed down with our palms together just as the woman in front of us did. then looked up & glanced at the room around us: it was all decorated with paintings of indian gods & goddesses & the air was filled with the smell of rose incense sticks. we each grabbed one yoga mat & then we started. first we lay down in savasana (the basic relaxation yoga pose where the yogi just lies on the mat with spread feet & arms & the palms facing up) then we continued with breath work: we fully inhaled, tried to hold our breath for approximately 20 seconds & then completely exhaled. it was our preparation for the following asanas (the hindi word for excercises) the whole time we were guided by our yoga teacher: a young indian woman who lived in the ashram as a volunteer & had already completed her TTC (the yoga teacher training course) her soft voice filled the room with calmness & inbetween the instruction she gave us in a mantra like rhythm we would chant `om shanti´ for three times all together to make us aware of our current state of mind which is supposed to be totally free of thoughts & full of peace. we inhaled & exhaled & with every breath we grew more into our environment & into an inner state of relaxation & gratitude. step by step we were guided through the different yoga poses which turned out to get more & more challanging & difficult. one single yoga pose like for example triconasana (another yoga pose where the yogi stands in a triangle & spreads out his arms to the sides) would be held for one minute & repeated for about ten times. during the excercises it is also important to focus on one’s beathwork: each action must be performed rather with inhaling or exhaling. our arms reached high for a stretch with inhaling. then we exhaled while bending back & forth to stretch our fingertips to our toes. i started sweating. yoga is more exhausting than one might think. but it was really good to feel the body connecting to to oneself once again. soon i was completely lost in the motion of my body & the rhythm of my breath. nothing else. we went through one yoga flow after the other, performed various yoga poses & lay down in savasana inbetween. all of the excercises were lead by our teacher who gave us the instructions to the poses in an almost soft & singing voice. after almost two hours we lay down in one final savasana. with our eyes closed we could feel the weight of our body who seemed to sink deeper into the ground with every breath we took. i almost fell asleep. i was really exhausted & soaked in sweat. a warm voice slowly brought us back to reality. we opened our eyes, slowly stood up again & chanted a final mantra together. we had completed our first asana yoga class in the ashram !! wow we were proud red heads :)) one quick shower & one change of clothes later we met at the dining hall with around hundred other participants of the so-called `yoga vacation´. we sat down on bamboo mats which were rolled out on the floor & then dinner was served. everybody put his plate down in front of him & volunteers from the ashram served rice, vegetable curry, sprout salad & plain lassi in huge silver bowls. we ate in silence. mauna (the hindi word for spiritual silence) states another very important part in the ashram: there is no talking whilst any yoga or meditation practise as well as during breakfast & dinner & after 1o pm. after dinner we all washed our cutlery & plates & took them back to our rooms. It was only 7 pm but i was already feeling more than exhausted. but the day would not be over yet. at 8 pm the so-called satsang started in siva hall. everyone took place on the mats inside of the hall, sat down with crossed legs & at 8 pm sharp the lights went out. only one single candle remained & shead a little light on us. one deep chanted `om´ slowly came to our ears & we started to chant as well. just imagine hundreds of people singing `om´ in a huge hall with only a little candle light. the atmosphere was truly magic & our voices seemed to fill the room with peace. for a few minutes we repeated the mantra over & over & then there was silence. simple silence. for 2o minutes we all mediated in this huge hall. eyes closed, legs crossed, back straight. breathing in & out. again & again. it felt extremely good to feel this kind of connection & calmness. especially whilst surrounded by so many others who would do the same. then another `om´ appeared to my ears & the lights went back on again. my eyes opened up & i could see three men sitting on a small stage in the front of the hall. one of them was singing the mantra. `om nama shivaya´ the man said & hundreds of people said it back. then he started talking, asked if we all felt good & if we were ready for singing !! sure we were. now i discovered the chant book in front of me: we started with the first one dedicated to ganesha the indian goddess shaped like an elephant. some people played drums, others clapped their hands & everyone was singing the hindi chant which most of them knew without looking into the chant book. well we didn’t :)) for one hour we chanted & sang all kinds of different songs & prayers until we ended the evening with a final mantra & a prayer to the two gurus who once founded the sivananda ashram called `swami sivananda´ & `swami vishnu-devananda´. they both died some 3o years ago in india. at around 1o pm the chanting session aka satsang ended & everyone went back into their rooms to get ready for some sleep. the next day started at half past 5 am. i woke up from the sound of a big bell ringing outside. it was still dark & i felt like i had barely slept but anyway it was time to stand up now. satsang would start at 6 am. just as in the evening before we first meditated & then chanted while the sun slowly rose. it was a very special feeling for me. somehow i felt very connected to myself as well as to my surrounding. i felt like being part of one organism which could only work with all its tiny parts working together in themselves. once chanting & morning talk, where the daily schedule was announced & the newcomers (just us two & one greek guy who had come back to the ashram for the fourth time lol) were welcomed, were done it was about time for tea !! everyone collected his cups & got it filled with hot chai. it was only half past 7 am but we were all pretty awake already. the next point on the schedule was asana yoga class again: beginners & advanced yogis could participate at different classes starting at 8 am. we took the first one :)) for one & a half hours we performed almost the same yoga practise as the day before: we started with savasana & breath work & then slowly proceeded to the more advanced asanas like the yoga poses called crow, dolphin or camel. we were about 2o people in the beginners class & our teacher helped us with any problems. it wasn’t the same teacher as the day before but her voice seemed to be almost the same. all the slow warm words created a really relaxing atmosphere so we could practise various yoga poses without any rush or pressure. what a nice way to start the day i thought: well even if i would probably never do asana yoga at 8 am every morning just by myself :)) after this wake up call we were all sweaty again & more than ready for a good breakfast !! at 10 am everyone assembled in the dining hall again & hot tea as well as a typical indian breakfast was served. the food in the ashram was really tasty & nurishing: only lightly salted & all vegetarian. so after a long & good brunch we were all energized again & ready for the day !! at 11 am we joined the newcomer meeting in rama hall (a small colorful temple in the ashram area) we introduced ourselves & were once again told about the rules in the ashram: no outside food or any kind of drug consumption. internet access would only be available for one hour before noon & for one hour in the evening. each class on the daily schedule should be attended as far as possible. mauna (spiritual silence) had to be respected. men & women weren’t allowed to visit each others accomodation & unregistered people from the outside weren’t allowed either. we were also told about the so-called karma yoga which is no yoga pactise in the common sense but rather a selfless activity to be executed without wanting anything in return. it’s a way of overcoming the ego & to act in the interest of karma. furthermore we were introduced into the history & the philosophy of the ashram. based on the mantra `health is wealth. peace of mind is happiness. yoga shows the way´ the ashram is dedicated to the practise & disseminantion of the so-called `synthesis of yoga´: the ashram is therefore meant as a place of peace & shelter from the pressures from the worldy life. it wants to give everybody who is willing to an opportunity to gain peace of mind & eventual happiness. the main focus of the ashram is set on growth & peace of body, mind & soul & on creating a purely positive & spiritual atmosphere in which people can practise together with awareness & respect. meditation & yoga are therefore practised each day: in order to create peace but also to share a positive approach on life itself for anyone who is ready to leave the ego behind. what i really liked while listening to all this was that there is no specific religion in any ashram: all kinds of religions are welcome. nobody is forced to any kind of prayer or religious acting. the songs are performed in hindi & english (the two national languages in india) & everybody can participate on the ashram program as long as he or she is willing to put effort & will in it. i personally think it is a great idea to create such a place of connection peace & shared passion & it felt really good to visit such place & to get to feel its energy & special atmosphere. visiting the ashram was a very special experience for both of us: it was something completely new & so different from what we had done & seen on our journey so far. plus having a whole straight schedule was so uncommon for us. we had to learn to follow strict rules again & to coordinate our time according to a fixed plan. it felt like less freedom but at the same time more of it as it was the first time on our journy through india where we had to let go of planning something. we were already inside of a system working all around us: we just had to follow. this felt really weird at first but soon we learned to appreciate it, to let go & to fall into this new experience. after this little ashram introduction we had some free time to our own disposal which we used for a stroll to the lake nearby where we read a little & an afternoon nap afterwards. the whole yoga practise gave me quite a muscle ache even though i streched a lot & i also felt very tired. but as we all know siestas can do magic !! after i woke up again from my nap i felt like a whole new person: all fresh & energized again & ready for the next ashram schedule point on the list lol :)) coaching class would start everyday at noon but one could join at any time as the class was optional (the only optional course on the schedule lol) so we visited the class at 1 pm to ask a few more questions about the new asanas we had learned so far. on top we got some tipps on how to impove our yoga poses & how to better connect body movement & breath work !! at half past 1 pm there was another tea break: herbal tea with honey was served in big silver pots & fresh watermelon was offered as a small snack inbetween. everyone was drinking tea & chatting with each other. it really seemed like a little gettogether after school. we even met rita: a girl from our homestay in `munroe island´ who went to the ashram after her stay there. she was just about to leave as she had already completed her three days at the ashram & had to go back home again. we talked a bit & just like us she was amazed by the wholly different experience the ashram provided: pretty much out of comfort zone but once you get into it & let go of your inner obstacles there can be gained so much new knowledge about oneself !! after finishing off our tea & saying goodbye to rita we were all set for our next lecture starting at 2 pm: in this class we would learn about various yoga topics just as `die 5 säulen des yoga´ which are also practised in the ashram. the five points of yoga hereby include proper exercises also known as asanas, proper breathing also known as pranayama, proper relaxation also known as savasana, proper diet alias an exclusively vegetarian one & positive thinking gained through meditation which is also known as vedanta & dhyana in hindi. all of these points are essential for the sivananda ashram & its program which intends to internalize all five fractions. after this extremely interesting lecture another asana yoga class was waiting for us: here we go again !! from half past 3 pm to half past 5 pm (two whole hours) we practised breath work, yoga poses & especially our own endurance haha but damn we felt so good afterwards. at 6 pm it was dinner time again & we ate with quite a big appetite: the body needs its energy. then we had two whole hours for ourselves once again where we watched the sunset behind the valley & prepared for the evening: as it was saturday something special was planned & on this specific saturday a talent show was organized by the students where anyone in the ashram could participate. so after satsang which started each evening at 8 pm a real show started off: people showed their best dance performances, chanted french songs & drummed the beats out of the jembe drums usually used for meditation issues. it was a real blast !! one could see that a little time out from yoga was necessary sometimes to feel all free & dumb once again :)) eventually we went to bed at 1o pm: exhausted but pretty happy. we just had successfully survived our first full day in the ashram: just kidding it wasn’t too bad at all but still: different. so our second day wasn’t too different from the first one but as it was sunday we would start the day with a little walk along the lake side instead of the usual satsang in siva hall. it was so beautiful: pink clouds came up in the dawn & the lake appeared in front of us like a blue lagoon leading our way along the small path on its side. it was still cool outside & the only thing we could hear were some early birds singing while we walked all covered in silence & tiredness :)) at the end of our little lake excursion we sat down in a temple right by the lake & chanted the daily prayers all together: the air seemed to be filled with magic & even the birds listened !! then we went back into the ashram where hot tea was already waiting for us: it simply was the perfect start into a sunday in india !! the rest of the schedule i guess you know already :)) after another asana yoga class we had breakfast at 1o am followed by some so-called karma yoga in the garden of the ashram where we looked after the plants, watered & mucked them. coaching class started at noon & after another tea break at half past 1 pm we joined the lecture on yoga topics where we discussed the best way towards a happy & positive mindset & talked about how to handle obstacles in the practise of yoga & meditation. then we joined one last asana yoga class on the rooftop. the sun was shining in bright gold light & dipped the village into a soft shimmer. for two hours we improved our yoga skills, streched & bend up & down & enjoyed the special atmosphere filled with so much energy & calmness at the same time !! the dinner at 6 pm also was especially good that evening: for the first time we tried the small, steamed & soft rice breads which we dipped into various vegetable sauces & coconut chutney. it was delicious !! at 8 pm satsang started & we chanted & meditated all together inside of the big siva hall. candles were lit, prayers spoken & in the end everyone said `om nama shivaya´ to each other in order to show respect & appreciation. i really liked this evening routine even though i crawled into my bed afterwards & almost immediately fell asleep haha: what a day !! the next day we left the ashram after sunrise & satsang. i was happy to get back to what we call real life but also sad to leave such a special place: we had learned so much & above all we had made an extraordinary experience which showed us india from a whole new prespective. i felt very grateful for this opportunity & also very proud of us as we managed to handle the difficult parts (hard yoga practise & not being able to cuddle together) as well as the positive ones: we had learned quite a lot about ourselves & about yoga & meditation, of course, more than I could have ever learned in a western minded yoga seminar back home: everything here was so real & pure !! but when we left the ashram an intense feeling of freedom hit us which we could not have experienced during our stay in the ashram. now it was all on us to go our further way & that was exactly what we were gonna do: our next stop would be `madurai´ & from there we would take another train to the east coast of india alias to the beautiful french-indian city called `pondicherry´ where we are right now !! bonjour de pondi :)) i’ll keep you posted !!

o5.o9.2o22 • Pondicherry

bonjour et salut de `pondicherry´ !! `pondicherry´ or short `pondi´ once was a french colony. it was conquered & almost completely destroyed by the british in 1761 & then rebuilt by the french all over again who won back the territory in 1765. today the french influence is still visible: the french district of `pondi´ is full of colorful houses in the french colonial style. furthermore, there can be found lots of french bakeries & cafés in the city center & some people still speak french on the streets !! `pondi´ really is a wild mix between the indian chaos & the french savoir-vivre. we spent five full days in the indo french city of `pondicherry´ & we couldn’t have enjoyed our time here any more !! the first two days it was raining almost all the time: but no problem for us :)) we did a little souvenir stroll & checked out some of the lovely french boutiques offering fine handmade clothing, indian incense candles, colored glass jewelry & so many more beautiful things no one ever really needs lol :)) however, we pretty much enjoyed browsing through the stores & looking at all the local arts & crafts & in the end of course we bought something for ourselves as well !! we also visted the famous `aurobindo ashram´ where the so-called philosopher sri aurobindo is buried & where people from all over the world come to pray & cherish the indian guru & yogi. we learned about sri aurobindo in one of our philosophy classes in vienna which is why it was especially interesting for us to visit the place where he once lived & practised his theory of mind. the ashram itself also is an extraordinary beautiful & calm area where we could wander around between flower beds & beneath old trees. we could literally feel the fullfilled atmosphere of this place !! we stayed in the ashram for a little while: in simple silence & with closed eyes. to let the calmness sink into our body & mind & indeed when we left the ashram again we felt refreshed, energized & grounded once again !! the magic of places. next to the `aurobindo ashram´ another street full of french shops opened up: we couldn’t resist & went to see the `boutique d’auroville´ (i will talk about `auroville´ later on: it’s another pretty crazy place in `pondi´) & the `auroshikha boutique´ where we were overwhelmed by all the different smells of candles, incense sticks & perfums !! indians love odors & we watched lots of indian tourists going crazy about some scented candles :)) it was really fun to stroll around in such busy market place atmosphere: bazaar vibes all over !! then it started raining heavily all over again & we decided it was time for some good coffee. `le café des arts´ probably is the most popular french coffee spot in `pondi´ but it also is the very best one in town !! they offer café au lait, croissant, pain au chocolate & anything else the french heart desires. they even have homemade cheese & spinach quiche: i couldn’t believe it !! furthermore, they have a huge book share shelf with french, english & indian literature. so no need to say we really liked this place. spoiler: we would come here for our petit-déjeuner every day while in `pondi´ & we loved this new little routine :)) but besides `le café des arts´ we would of course continue to taste different croissants at different bakeries in order to find the best french pastries in `pondi´ !! `baker street bakery´ was on the top of our list at first but then we found this super small hidden french café called `le petit four´ where they had the best tarte de pomme i ever tried in my life. the almond croissant was a dream as well & the one chocolate maccaron we shared in the end felt like a cloud out of chocolate melting in my mouth. my personal conclusion: 1. `le petit four´ 2. `le café des arts´ 3. `baker street bakery´ so when in `pondi´ please check out all three of them & let me know about your taste experience :)) french food is just way too good but i’ll make a point here: because believe it or not we did do other things than eating & shopping in `pondi´ as well :)) we even celebrated a very special birthday in `pondi´ !! it was the birthday of ganesha (the elephant goddess) one of the most important indian gods & our personal fav indian guardian. the main attribut of ganesha is her big round belly in which she carries all the love for the world which very much reminded me of the so-called `bauchgefühl´ which again is one of the most important things when it comes to ones own self consciousness or `selbstwahrnehmung´. this is why ganesha took such a special place in our hearts & pouchies: she followed us through out our whole journey !! it just felt like another sign that we could join the birthday of ganesha in india. the streets were full of people playing music & in the evening we even spotted a real huge elephant slowly stepping through the streets of `pondi´ !! our hearts & pouchies felt especially full that evening & i swear it wasn’t just because of the good streetfood we had :)) our third day in `pondi´ eventually showed up with blue skies & bright sunshine. we went out for coffee & croissants & then decided to go to `auroville´. `auroville´ is a part of `pondi´ which was founded in 1968 by mirra alfassa in honor of sri aurobindo. next to the `aurobindo ashram´ the planned international city of `auroville´ is a place to learn, internalize & practise the teachings of the famous philosopher. `auroville´ is a huge housing, living & teaching complex that resembles a whole city constructed in the form of a ring in which the center is formed as a golden globe that funcions as a meditation center for hundreds of people. the dimensions are crazy !! anyone can live in `auroville´ if he or she wants to: there are different accomodations in different price classes, restaurants, stores, meditation & schooling centers & huge garden areas !! unfortunately it’s all artificially: the gardens, the rivers, the stone constructions. it’s all perfectly planned, clean & organized. not much left of the original state of nature !! so even though i liked the idea of `auroville´ (uniting people from all over the world to live in peace & practise all together) i really didn’t like its transformation: how can we find peace in destroying nature ?! it simply wouldn’t work for me. still, each year thousands of people from all over the world come to `pondi´ only to go to `auroville´ & to live there for some time. many western dropouts from society find their new home in `auroville´ & some of them even stay there for their whole life. i found it extremely interesting to visit such a place (i’ve never seen something like it before) but somehow it also scared me a little (it almost felt futuristic or even surreal) & we were glad when we left `auroville´ again & dived back into the indian urban chaos of `pondi´. wow there are so many crazy places in this world !! lucky us we can decide where to go & where to stay. the fourth day in `pondi´ was sunny all over again. perfect conditions to go surfing !! right after breakfast we took a local bus to the northern shore of `pondi´ where the so-called `serenity beach´ is located. it’s a well-known spot for surfing in india & abroad & i couldn’t believe we were about to catch some of the waves there by ourselves !! `mother ocean surf school´ is located right by the beach & the owner called shankar welcomed us warmly: we put on sunscreen & surf shirts & off we went. well to the beach af first: dry practise on the land is a must do before hitting the water with the boards !! we warmed up, repeated the surfing movements on our boards & stretched our arms & legs. then we were ready !! we put on the leash (a band you put on your ankle to not loose the surfboard in the water) & walked into the water with our surfboards. i have to admit i felt pretty cool by then :)) then the challenging part of the business started: surfing !! the waves were good: not too high & not too low. we started in the white water where the water is still shallow & the waves are small. paddle, stand up, surf, repeat. that was the motto of the day & in fact we did quite well !! after a few attempts i was back in the surfing mode & managed to catch one wave after the other: small ones but still :)) for two hours we were out in the water & surfed as much as we could. damn it felt so good to be back !! the water was really nice & cool & our teacher gave us some good advises after each surf session: we improved wave by wave. it was so much fun !! then after two hours we went back on the beach & right then we felt how exhausted we actually were. surfing isn’t an easy sport at all. it takes a lot of strength & power. plus the sun is burning down all day & the waves are constantly pushing you back: nothing for weak nerves :)) but we did it & we did it well (even our teacher praised us) wow what an amazing experience !! we felt so happy & exhausted all together :)) we washed the boards, stored them & then went to the beach again to have a good post surf lunch: fried calamari, a big portion of rice & a cold coke. nothing better than this after two hours of surfing !! we enjoyed it to the fullest. then it was time to go home again. we took the bus to `pondi´ again & then walked to our hostel where we almost instantly fell asleep: siesta time !! proud to say we woke up before sunset & managed to go for an evening walk along the `pondicherry promenade´. it was saturday & so many indian tourists from `bangalore´ & `chennai´ spent their weekend in `pondi´ to enjoy the french riviera vibes. the promenade was full of indian families eating ice cream & laughing. quite a nice picture & us right in the middle of them all lol :)) the sun slowly went down & colored the sky in a light pink. we strolled along, watched the people & just enjoyed the calm atmosphere of `pondi´. this town really is one of the most beautiful ones in all india & we’ve been to quite a few :)) sunday would be our very last day in `pondi´: last but not least !! we had wanted to do a cooking course since we arrived in kerala but somehow it never worked out & i had already crossed it from my to do list when we discovered the `sita cultural center´ in `pondi´ offering all kinds of courses for yoga, sari, dancing & also for cooking !! we spoke to the lady at the reception & asked her about the cooking class. turned out she herself was a very well-known indian cook who was offering south indian cooking classes in her own home as well. plus she was the most friendly & funny lady we had met on our travels so far. well we didn’t need to think about it for long :)) sunday at 5 pm we met with lakshmi in her home. we started with some freshly made masala chai & then the dinner preparations were on: we would cook 5 different dishes that evening !! 1. idly: steamed rice buns 2. dosa: indian flat bread fried in coconut oil 3. coconut chutney: a creamy chutney made out of coconut, lentils, green chilly, coriander, pepper & mustard seeds. my personal fav !! 4. sambar: a typical south indian vegetable stew with lentils, tomatos & onions 5. sweet rice noodles: a traditional dessert from `pondi´ prepared with cardamom seeds & rose leaves & a lot of sugar :)) we cooked & chatted the whole evening & then had the most delicious selfmade dinner together !! it was the perfect end of our wonderful stay in `pondi´ & in india i would have almost written but our journey is not over yet: on monday morning we checked out of our hostel called `shanti inn´ (would recommend 1o out of 1o: affordable & comfortable rooms in the heritage town of `pondi´) went to `le petit four´ one last time to have coffee & croissants (yes they definitely are the best there) & then took the bus to another small seaside town north of `pondi´ & south of `chennai´ (where our plane will be leaving from in a few days) called `mamallapuram´. one last time sand, sun & sea in india !! we’ll soak in every part of it. now off to the beach !!