Friday, January 23, 2009
After Delhi and Agra, we dropped off the beaten path with an all day bus trip to Orchha (oh my arching butt) on one of India's main roads. A few hours into the shake rattle and roll, we reached Gwalior (pics), and its incredible fortress. The few other tourists were Indian, and it was manned by only a single hustler. Well, given the road to Gwalior, maybe not so surprising, after all. Just for starters, the walls are 3 miles long and more than 30 feet high on a plateau. The mix of Raja and Mughal architecture is is amazing, and in places incredibly playful. I've never seen a ruler who would voluntarily tile his palace with yellow ducks.Large parts of the palace are unfortunately not open to the public--or in a state where one could count on the ceiling not carving in, but the even the accessible parts on their own were just about my favorite building in India. The staircases into the bowels of the fort not so much, though.
Like all other palaces, there are no glass windows because of the warm climate. Instead, intricate screens are carved out of stone.
Great Indian inventions, part 1: according to the tour guide, one room was set aside for the queens to commit suicide after the kings died. A+ for planning, F for equality of the sexes.
Just outside the main gate, huge Buddha statues are carved into the sheer cliff. I was so into taking pictures that I stepped into a nice, soft, warm cow patty. According to both the guide and the driver a sign of good luck that almost every other member of our tour had experienced by the time we were back in Delhi.
After lunch, we watched the inevitable first bad accident when a car ran into a biker*. From then on, we got one per day which makes me doubt the official number of "only" 12,000 people dying in traffic every year.
Slightly shaken, it was back on the bus for a drive that lasted to just about sunset, and the most amazing hotel on the trip--an old royal hunting "lodge". One thing driving at night might be more dangerous, but since the headlights on the bus weren't really on top of their game, it's less scary.
*He was able to walk away...at least to the side of the road where he was swallowed up by a large circle of onlookers.