India - If you haven't been to Mysore you just haven't seen South India
.....this is what lonely planet says about Mysore. Well, we are not really LP-fans - but this is certainly true. Mysore has everything South India is made of: tempels, pujas, lovely food, hot weather, friendly people, colonial buildings, honking, crazy markets, yoga, all kinds of smells and colours and, a highlight for us (after a long time without): nice cold local beer. This city is a feast for all sins. But come prepared and be ready to dive into this world - otherwise it will makes you crazy.
We were thinking a lot about going to Mysore. The last travelblogs about this city were not really enthusiastic. But in Wayanad, we spoke to so many people who simply loved their time in Mysore that we finally decided to check it out. And did we regret coming there? Of course not - we loved it and could have stayed much longer. It is crazy, it is stressful, colourful, mindblowing - I have no more english words to describe this city. But may be it is not my limited knowledge of english. You must experience this city, there are no words to describe it, no matter in which language. Well, at least I will try to write a bit about what we did.
First of all we were very lucky with where we stayed. As it was weekend, all the popular places had already been booked. Beena, our angel from Wayanad, found a cheap homestay for us a bit out of town: the Rooftop Retreat. We did not get this fantastatic rooftop apartment which is really a great deal for only 2.000 rupia. We had a very small but superclean room downstairs for only 1.000 rupia including free water and indian breakfast.The owners were very nice and helpful and with the ricksaw it is just a short ride to town. First of all we just walked around the center and got the real Mysore feeling by slowly walking through the Devaraja Market. What a wonderfully bustling bazaar full of traders selling traditional items such as flower garlands, spices and conical piles of kumkum. Of course there is also the typical tourist stuff - but you have to bargain hard. On our first visit we did not buy anything but took it just all in. Outside the market we found a music store and decided to buy some traditional music. We were just standing inside listening to a CD when a cow walked passed and put her head into the store looking at us. This was so surreal for us (for the locals it must have been normal) - it was a good combination of the modern world and the tradition Mysore is made of. We had lunch at the travellers' famous Parklane Hotel which was nice, especially the cold beer. Since New Year we had not had anything else than water and tea (just because beer was not available), what a nice taste of the first sip! The next morning after a delicious homecooked breakfast at our homestay we went up to Chamundi Hill. This is one of the 8 most sacred hills in South India and there were some celebrations going on that day. So it was packed with people and, of course, cows. We made our way to the main entrance. Before entering the palace,
we got a blessing and then could quickly walk through the tempel receiving a Darshan and another blessing inside. It was amazing to see how all this people were quickly led through the tempel, all receiving their darshans and blessings. An amazing experience and we were really happy that we already know the meanings and rules of how to behave and what to do on such an occasion. Afterwards we descided to walk down the 1000 steps back to town. After halfway, you can see a big statue of Nandi, Shiva's vehicle. Back in town it was time for a late lunch before we did some big shopping which was good fun and we made some really good deals concerning clothes. Walking through the streets suddenly someone called our names. We turned around in surprise - well, the street was packed with locals, who is knowing us here anyway? A french couple we met in Wayanad was standing behind us. Funny. We would not have found us if we had tried to. But these guys were not the only ones we met....
The next day, sunday, we were ready for the Mysore highlight: a visit to the Palace. From outside, this palace really is spectacular. Around town there are more wonderful, colonial buildings giving the city a certain grandeur. But this palace really left us speechless (which is so difficult, as we both love talking ;-)). We entered the gardens and first visited an old Vishnu Tempel which was also very beautiful and overall peaceful. As there are no photographys allowed inside the palace we first walked around the gardens taking some pics. In one shady corner of the park we saw some elefants. As Markus loves those animals, we went there. We got some elefant blessings (the elefant put his trunk on our heads and gave us a big blow with some awfully warm air). Finally, we could also sit on the elefant. We gave the guys a few rupia for this. Later we discovered that this was a real bargain for us. Even local tourists pay nearly the double price to sit on the elefant. How lucky we had been!
Of course, we also visited the palace. It was again packed with people and many school classes. But it was really beautiful with some amazing architectural details. We loved the detailed wood carvings with marble. And suddenly, just in front of us, were our friends from Belgium - the family we had met in Kannur a couple of days earlier. Spontanously, we had lunch together and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town to some sandalwood shops and also trying all the famous sweets in coffee shops. That was good fun and it was great to see you guys again - have a safe ongoing trip!
We ended our time in Mysore with one more highlight - a visit to the palace in the dark when it was illuminated by around 100.000 light bulbs. It was stunning! We felt like in Disneyland. The whole atmosphere was breathtaking. There, again, were many people, but all were happy and peaceful and we simply had a great time taking this all in. What a better way than ending a perfect day with a nice dinner on a roof top terrace at Gandhi Square.
Much too fast our time in Mysore was over. We had not expected to enjoy an indian city that much. Still there are a lot more things to see and do. But we decided to move on anyway. Our time is limited and some more interesting destinations are waiting for us. A bus was taking us up into the mountains again - over 2.000 meters into the heart of the Nilgiris.
Our next stop: the chilly and strange hill station of Ooty.