Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shimla: In the lap of the Himalayas

India is by far not only comprised of (sub-)tropical plain-lands and deserts. As you approach the Himalayas, you see the landscape becoming hilly, the roads windy, and the snow-capped peaks appear on the horizon.
Even in the summer, brutally hot in other parts of the country, this region remained cool and inviting. This is why during the British rule, Shimla was chosen to be the summer residence, with the apparatus moving there to escape the heat. Today, Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh (literally "In the lap of the Himalayas").
While three of us decided to visit Agra, the others would like to breath the fresh air of Shimla.
On our six-hour long journey, we visited McDonald's for the first time in India. The company does not offer any beef / pork products: all burgers are either vegetarian or made of chicken meat.


We arrived in Shimla around midnight. Once we entered the hotel, we understood that not all lodging options offer as much comfort as our accommodation in Ludhiana. With the temperature around 0 degrees, there was no centralized heating. The available warming options were a small e-heater, a lot of clothing and a good company. We made use of all three.
 
The breakfast next morning is worth a special mention. As you can guess from the number of clothing layers, it was pretty cold. Once we have poured in the chai, the steam has covered the table (the picture does not fully convey the atmosphere). However, the food and the hot drink gave us energy for the day.
As we left the hotel, we enjoyed the magnificent view.
And then, we saw the monkeys. Monkeys everywhere! They had a thicker winter fur and were really bold. Their main occupation is to steal something from incautious pedestrians. Glasses, cameras, jackets and, of course, food, regularly change owners because of the little thieves. On the pictures, however, they look so cute...
Shimla itself has a lot of nice places to offer. After visiting the main square, we hiked to the Jakhu temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Hanuman. In the beginning on the road, a sign challenges the visitors to test their fitness. Although the road was quite steep, we did the hike in 28 minutes!
   
 
On the windy streets, we have visited further buildings erected during the British rule as well as a temple.
On the next day, we decided to cover half of our journey on a train which connects Shimla to Kalka, which lies further down in the valley. Being a unique narrow-gauge railway, the train crosses almost a thousand bridges and over 100 tunnels. Sometimes, the cliff starts right outside of the windy tracks. The space inside of the train is quite scarce, but the railway offers a magnificent view on its way to the valley.

 The station signs reminded me of the London subway. 
The weekend ended with a philosophical statement at one of the stations of the Shimla-Kalka railway. 

Time to get back to work!

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