Kolkata is of course the former capital of British India and we were impressed to see just how much of its colonial architecture still stands proud (despite needing some TLC) and surprised at how many of the British-era road names still existed such as Park Street, Waterloo Street, Crooked Lane and Queen’s Way
. A friendly, cocky young businessman on our train from Delhi told us that the Victoria Memorial is a must-see, so as soon as we could we made our way across the city to this beautiful marble ‘palace’ completed twenty years after Victoria‘s death. It is a stunning building and the Lonely Planet believes, ‘Had it been built for a beautiful Indian princess rather than a dead colonial queen, the incredible Victoria Memorial would surely rate as one of India’s greatest buildings.’ Inside the interior galleries displayed a collection of paintings by early western travellers and an exhibition about the history of the city and the lives of Indians living under British rule; fascinating to read about, involving colourful characters like Job Charnock, Clive of India and the nawab Siraj-ud-Daula, the British East India Company, and the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’. Clive of India’s statue stands tall inside, and a portly Victoria sits slumped on her throne in front of the North entrance.
More to come…
...a pleasant surprise. Kolkata is regarded as India’s intellectual and cultural capital and compared to Delhi it was cultured indeed. In fact Kolkata was just how we’d imagined India’s capital city would look and feel. Immediately the people displayed a friendliness and deference that had been absent for us in Delhi. We had a laugh with an affable taxi driver outside Howrah Train Station and a kind young Kolkatan lady went out of her way to ensure our taxi would take us to the right street and our lodgings. And when we got lost en-route the five policemen and four locals that we asked for directions all tried to help (although in true Indian style instead of saying ‘I don‘t know‘ a number did send us on a wild goose-chase). Our lodgings were with the Bengal Buddhist Association in the BBD Bagh area, north of the popular backpacker area (Delhi had provided a stark reminder that backpackers unfortunately attract scumbags), and thankfully we had a clean and airy place to retreat to during our four days in Kolkata.