Taj Mahal and Rajasthan

 Hello from Kolkata, India.  A few weeks ago I met an amazing married couple from England.  They had been traveling for 2.5 years and were at the very end of their trip.  These were the first people I’ve met who’ve been on a trip of the same, well, scale as mine. (I’ve met people who had been away from home for a long time, alternating working for a little bit and traveling for a while; but none that were doing multi-year trips of pure travel).  I had a great conversation with them about the places they’ve been, the joys and difficulties of long-term travel, etc.

Anyway, the husband thought that the Taj Mahal is “the most beautiful thing built by man”.  A strong statement from a man who has been all over the planet and has seen many things.  Obviously, I needed to check this out for myself…

I still remember the moment I turned the corner and caught my first glimpse of the Taj through the front gate.  I was blown away.  Wow.  I arrived there just after sunrise and the marble palace glowed in the early morning light.  It almost looked fake, actually – like it was painted on the horizon (sort of the same way Mount Rainier does sometimes when viewed from Seattle).  But no, the Taj was real.  It was indeed beautiful.  And, I normally reserve that word for mountains and other things built by the hands of mother nature.  But, the Taj was worthy.  Here are a couple lame pics that don’t do it justice:

It took about 20 years to build the Taj Mahal, beginning in 1631.  The labour required over 20,000 men. The amount of marble used is amazing.  Practically the whole thing is made of it.  I’m trying to think when marble is used back home… I believe it is only used for counters, and even then, very rarely, as it is expensive.  I’m finding that many ancient palaces in India are built pretty much entirely of marble.  Back in the day, it must have grown on trees out here.

I’m rambling.  After the Taj Mahal, I made a quick rip through the state of Rajasthan and its colourful cities: Jaipur and its pink Old City, Udaipur with its white palaces, Jodhpur (the Blue City), and Jaisalmer (the Golden City).  The people of Rajasthan really know how to build palaces and forts.  They have built the most famous ones in India.

The Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur

The gates of the Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur.  Note the large spikes about 3 metres up the gate (they are hard to see in this pic).  The purpose of these was to deter elephants from ramming the gate.  Further, this gate is placed at a very upbrupt right angle to the road leading up to it.  This was so that elephants did not have a straight run at the gate — instead, they had to make a turn right before it, losing their speed…  When the gate was designed to prevent elephant-ramming you know you’re not in Kansas anymore…

So, nothing too adventurous happening right now.  Just checking out a lot of really amazing, famous, old stuff.  Check you later!

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