Saturday, February 06, 2010

Calcutta - Sat 6.2.10

Well thankfully I had a good sleep last night & almost feel my normal self & no further claustrophobic experiences ... I've done bugger all cycling for what is ostensibly a cycling holiday. I spent a good part of the morning (almost) finishing the final chapters of the very popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a free copy I stumbled across on the web) on my BeBook. It seemed to start slowly, have a very flat spot in the middle, but began to pick up pace at the halfway mark ... and I was hooked. Parts of it were quite daft but on the whole it was a captivating read. Luckily I have copies of his next 2 books on the eBook reader. Afterwards, I walked down to the South Park Street Cemetery (on the way, encountering & sidestepping a rather large flock of goats swarming (flocking?) across the roadway) and after looking around at the Raj-era tombs I headed off to the offices of India Tourism to collect a 'permission note' to visit the Marble Palace, a rather extraordinary nineteenth century (?1835) palatial mansion, with marble walls & floors & packed with all manner of statues, glassware, paintings, furniture, mirrors, clocks, caged birds, etc. etc., more or less tucked away in a side street in North Calcutta. I got there by using the Metro. Despite looking rather run down, the trains thundered along at a tremendous pace. The journey cost 4Rp - about 10 cents (in AUD) - and was, oddly, rather good fun & an effective way to get around parts of Calcutta. After the Marble Palace, I walked a few more blocks to visit Tagore's House - the family mansion of Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Bengali poet and all-round artist. They were also holding an Astrology Convention on the grounds but I steered well away from this. Inspired by the trip on the Metro, I decided to catch a tram that seemed headed in the right direction. Apparently electric trams have been running in Calcutta since 1902 (and I reckon the one I got on had been running since then: extremely decrepit). It trundled along at little more than walking pace, and its passage was continually being impeded by rickshaws, pedestrians, men with pushcarts, etc. Needless to say, it ended up leaving me miles from anywhere & I found myself walking a few more km & then catching the Metro for one stop, back to base & late lunch at 'Fresh & Juicy', a travellers' cafe in Sudder Street. I reckon I'll be here for 2 more days before heading to Puri by bus ... so, if you were hoping to read about the cycling, it might be a little while yet. I'll still have plenty to see around Calcutta when I return in a few weeks time, and will probably wait until then before visiting some of the more curious places quietly recommended to me by my chum Mr Felix (aka Pak Peelips).

Calcutta tram

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