Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Ancient City

View from the roof of my Guest House

Varanasi - heart of Hindu India and possibly the oldest, constantly inhabited city on the planet.  It is a crazy jumble of sights and sounds, an architectural and cultural palimpsest, and every square inch and person is a beggar.   It is also a tourist hotspot, and prices change steeply as you enter the non-tourist part of town.  Also, never have I been so hounded by touts who see my fair skin as a walking money sign - literally from the moment I stepped off the train they are trying to sell you, take you, show you.  Hugo, the French guy, decided to share a room with me and that has worked out well.  Our guest house is right on the main burning ghat and the first moments that we wandered down to the water we were lied to about where we were allowed to go, diverted to a private view, and then insulted when we did not give money.  The guy had the balls to tell me it was bad karma, and I almost lost it on him.  

I don't believe a good map exists of this main, old city - there are so many lanes, most of them so narrow you can touch both sides at once, that it would probably not help anyways.  Luckily there are signs, and people will tell you where to go.

At any rate, the place we are staying in is nice enough, with excellent location, and is run by a really sweet family.  Varanasi is awesome and bewildering and wonderful, and I am enjoying the feel of north India and the familiar sounds of Hindi.  I am glad to be here. 
View from Puja hotel's rooftop restaurant.

Last night I ate at a restaurant that had classical indian music as entertainment - tabla and sarangi.  They were tired and showy musicians who must have day jobs and little passion left, but it was still nice and I didn't mind paying a little extra for my kashmiri curry and rice. 
Today I am going to walk the length of the ghats and see what happens. 

Brahmin getting shaved: it is the full moon today.


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