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Published: February 21st 2018
Woolly says – With our second train of the week cancelled and no trains or buses leaving Varanasi for the next forty eight hours we were left in a bit of a pickle according to Jo, although I don’t know where she was keeping the pickle which I do like on a cheese sandwich! It wasn’t a huge problem except it would mean missing our connecting flight which was due to leave Kolkata in two days’ time. Jo sat with furrowed brow whilst Zoe cruised places to stay for the extra night, I entertained the troops and gave encouraging words for their endeavours.
It took an hour of telling the mammoth to go and sing somewhere else and frantic google searches, but we got it sorted. Woolly says – Our plane arrived on the tarmac at Kolkata international airport on time and having collected the luggage, summoned an uber we arrived fit to collapse and knowing there was no chance of going anywhere that day, we rested up for the evening and started bright and early in what was now to be our one and only day in the city. Kolkata was known
as Calcutta until 2001 and has India’s oldest operating port. Nicknamed the "City of Joy’ ’it is known for its cultural and art side. In the attempt to see as much as possible, we had worked out a route that would involve some of the architecture and famous places, first up was St Pauls Cathedral which I had always thought was in London! Started in 1839 the building was completed in 1847and is said to be the largest cathedral in Kolkata and the first Episcopal Church in Asia. It was also the first cathedral built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. Following the 1897 earthquake and the subsequent massive earthquake of 1934, when Calcutta suffered substantial damage, the cathedral was reconstructed to a revised design which didn’t include the spire which was never replaced, the architectural design of the cathedral is "Indo-Gothic", a Gothic architectural style designed to meet the climatic conditions of India. From the outside it looked very regal and having admired the exterior I trotted inside to find some lovely stained glass windows and an arched ceiling covered in Tudor roses. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was most enjoyable reading all
the memorial stones that covered the walls and admiring the glasswork. With tummies rumbling we set off to find some breakfast….it took a very long time.
Two hours to find somewhere open and serving food took way too much time out of our already limited day. Woolly says – Having wiped away my nan crumbs onto the floor and left a good sized piece in Jo’s bag for emergency snacks, I set off at quite a pace to find the High Court. The Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India. It was established on 1st July 1862 and has jurisdiction over the state of West Bengal and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The High Court building was designed by Mr. Walter Granville, a Government Architect, on the model of the ‘Stadt-Haus’ or Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium. It took hours to find. Why is it when you look at a map it looks as though you should arrive in minutes, but the reality is so different, the main area that runs alongside the river and is known as the Maiden looked like lots of
adjoining parks on our map, which we had thought would make a nice walk, it wasn’t. It was lots of brown land that we couldn’t walk on and had to spend our time dodging the traffic and walking along the road. With temperatures in the mid thirties and my fur sticking to me I had lost all interest in seeing anything except a cool dark room, the women however had other ideas and we plodded on. After what seemed like several weeks we found ourselves finally in a proper park area known as Eden Garden. A bench awaited my bottom and we sat cooling ourselves and admiring the flowers and Japanese pagoda before setting off once more. I had just suggested a taxi in the hope that we could stop walking when Jo let out a cry and pointed towards a large orange and yellow building, I wiped the sweat from my brow and peered at it, ok it wasn’t bad but it certainly wasn’t an hour and a half worth of walking type of good! We took our pictures and considered our plans which was to include a further eight buildings, I looked around, the women looked around and
having concluded that finding these would take the rest of the day we scratched that part of the proceedings and leapt into a taxi.
We’ve commented throughout this journey that we are relaying on transport rather than our own feet but given the distances between places the walking wasn’t going to get us anywhere today. Woolly says – As we pulled up at the Victoria Memorial, I was literally blown away, it was gorgeous. Built between 1906 and 1921 in celebration of the Queen and former Empress of India it’s white dome stood in all it’s glory, surrounded by lovely gardens filled with bright blooms. A large statue of Victoria on her throne stood in front of the entrance and having admired that for a while I bounced my way up the steps and into the building, designed in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style which uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements with Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences the inside was even better, not pictures of course but we stood for a long time admiring the murals portraying the Queens life as well as the life size statue of her.
A large area had been dedicated to a museum which gave lots of information about the founding of India, the East India Company and independence alongside large canvases of Dukes and Maharajah’s. Having stared up at the dome for too long my neck seemed to have set at an angle and I must have looked a trifle strange as I went through the exit in a sideways position.
It seemed like a good time for a sit down and an ice cream before heading to our last visiting point. Woolly says – Having got a little bit sticky and used an impressive number of wet wipes we hailed a taxi. Jo had asked the driver to put the meter on but a few minutes into the journey she tapped him in his shoulder and asked again, ‘it is on’ he said, ‘no it’s not’, she replied, ‘yes miss it shows the miles’, ‘no’ says Jo ‘it should show the price!’ The argument continued for several minutes until Jo, quite forcefully, told him to stop, we slowed to a halt and she asked for the cost at that point in time, I
looked at the mileage and realised that we had done just over one kilometre. ‘Four hundred’ the brave man said, Jo laughed and thrust a twenty note at him as Zoe and I bolted out of the door, he tried to hold Jo back whilst shouting at her, as she erupted onto the pavement the camera was out and she was snapping the driver and his vehicle, he didn’t seem to like that and accelerated away and into the distance.
I know we have to pay as tourists more but that was ridiculous. Woolly says – Having secured another cab and had the meter put on we were finally off to the Mother House and home to the legendary women of India, Mother Teresa. Known in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta she was born in Macedonia and christened, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on the 26th August 1910. After living in Macedonia for eighteen years she moved to Ireland to join a convent and then onto India, where she lived for most of her life. In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which had
over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries in 2012. She and her fellow sisters set up homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis as well as soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics. She received a huge number of awards for her work including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, the Mother house had been acquired in 1953 and it was to be her final resting place when she died on 5th September 1997. The corner building was grey and didn’t look much at all, a lovely nun smiled as we entered and told us that we could take pictures except in the museum area and in Mother’s room. It wasn’t anything fancy inside but then would you expect that in a convent, her room was exactly how she had left it with a small bed, a desk and stool and a shelf full of folders, housekeeping was obviously a strong point as everything was bright and shiny clean. The museum was interesting and told us her life story with lots of photographs as well as her personal belongings, next door was a small chapel area with Mother Teresa’s tomb being the main feature, a huge marble
block under which she lies had candles and flowers on top as well as a statue of the Virgin, very serene and very peaceful.
Similar to Ghandi and what he had done for the country I had such respect for this woman who had mothered India for the majority of her life. Woolly says – It might have been a tiring day, but we had managed to see a couple of real gems of the city, should we have had longer, well if trains had worked then we would have. We only needed to pack and eat for our last night in India, a country which has proved to be an adventure in so many ways, we’ve laughed and the women have cried, we’ve seen some of the most incredible places and witnessed some of the most wonderful experiences, it’s a country of colour and vibrancy, squalor and smell but it’s a place worth heading towards, thank you India you’ve been brilliant.
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