Day 2 - Arrival in Srinagar
We arrived in Srinagar tired and are eager to start seeing a little more in the places we visited. So many kilometers and so many means of transport in a few days exhaust enough. The first thing that catches our attention is the prevailing security. Although it does not bother me as nothing seems to suggest that the situation is currently unstable.
We get off the bus and start walking looking for a group that brings us closer to the city. We get on with some in the car without knowing where we are going. The first thing that caught our attention was the lake. The landscape that appeared before us did not correspond to what we were seeing and knowing about India. Dal lake is accompanied by mountains and snowy peaks.
We stopped at Dal Lake and climbed to a shikara, a typical boat like the Venetian gondola, which is used for transport, both of goods and people. A boat that circulates around the lake takes us from the mainland to the houseboats. In the period between the 1960s and 70s, the houseboats of Srinagar experienced a moment of great fame when George Harrison (one of the Beatles) met Ravi Shankar to play the sitar.
We arrive at one that is quite good and the bargaining begins. Finally, after the uncertainty and haggling, we book for 3 nights with lunch, dinner, and excursions. It was the last days of Ramadan and the mosque next door would compulsively sound the prayers at a disproportionate volume for one hour each night, from 3 to 4 in the morning. The houseboat has several rooms. There is a large double room at one end.
There are other spacious rooms along with a corridor and a dining room and a living room at the other end. It goes to the terrace of the boat that overlooks the lake. Here I had a cup of tea in the Kashmiri style (terribly addictive) with almonds and cardamom and some bread.
From Srinagar, there is a kind of boulevard with shops on one side and a lakeside walk on the other side from where the shikaras are taken to go to the houseboats. From our houseboat, we take a ride in the shikara. During the boat ride, we see its old canals, the houses of the people. An imposing fortress, the Hari Parbat, completely dominates the city from the top of a nearby hill.
Srinagar lends itself to be walked, and we did it, knowing in passing the attractions of the place. The cold felt good, for the first time we had used a diver, and also a jacket! Srinagar is a city full of mosques like Jama Masjid with posters in Urdu. We walk through the old city to the green mosque, which is under construction because it was burned down two years ago.
Among all the mosques, Hazratbal stands out not for its charm but for its importance, as there is a relic of the hair of the beard of the prophet Muhammad. My visit was merely anecdotal: the classic "I was here and I took my picture", to continue with what I really like. It is to get lost in the city and converse with its inhabitants who, by the way, are of a hospitality that disarms.
We no longer saw temples or Sikhs walking down the street. The women and the different types of veils do not stop calling our attention. There are some who are all covered in the burka, where we cannot see their eyes. There are others whose eyes can be seen. There are still others who just cover their mouth and some more daring just cover their hair. Another new culture presented itself to us.
We approach the tomb of Jesus Christ. Yes, the tomb of Christ or his "alternative" grave, to be totally accurate. I had read several times about this legend of Rozabal. Not only did I find it locked with a padlock every time I went, but they also did not let me take any photographs of the building. At least I can say that the windows are open. They are large enough to see perfectly inside, where the coffin is located and where the body of Christ supposedly rests.
From there we go to Nageen Lake, which is spectacular. Water lilies are hunted by the winter. Their flowers completely bloomed are withering. The stems and the lotus leaves, stylized as in an Art Nouveau decoration, emerge from the mist, with tendrils laden with pink flowers like the sunset. Another thin shikara with canopy appears in the distance, then disappears and reappears like a ghost.
It passes beside us silently, occupied by a figure lying wearily on a sofa. This watery paradise evokes the Victorian romanticism. The haze thins out, revealing a sumptuous backdrop of mountains. There is the Pir Panjal. The guide takes us to a demonstration of making carpets even though I asked him not to do it. The gentleman tells me that if I do not want carpets, maybe I want pashmina shawl, sweaters or handkerchiefs.
Watching the lake from the houseboat, at night, is a marvel. Through the wide open windows, we can admire Dal Lake, and the full moon over the mountains that frame the wonderful view of the water, beyond which lies the region of Ladakh. The only noise that is heard comes from the splashing of the shikaras that cross the river. Srinagar was also the first place where we could sleep well, without so much heat.