Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walking tour of Fort Cochin!

A leisurely start to the day, it was 10ish before we got out and about, so much for my determination to sight see early before it gets too hot! Today was a walking day in spite of the persistent tuk tuk drivers touting for business.

First stop was St Francis Church, where Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before being dug up and taken back to Portugal. Vasco da Gama first arrived in Kerala in 1498 via the Cape of Good Hope in his search for a sea route from Europe to the East. He achieved what Christopher Columbus failed to because America was in the way! He was interested in trading with the Zamorin dynasty of Calicut which was then a major trading centre for pepper and spices in the north of Kerala. However his gifts did not impress and established trading ties with the Arabs and Chinese meant his lengthy discussions with the Zamorin came to nothing and he left Calicut with no trading agreement. It was Pedro Alvarez Cabral who established friendly relations with the Raja of Cochin in 1500 which kickstarted the whole European Colonial episode in India. Vasco da Gama returned in 1502 and after fighting the Zamorin and plundering Calicut he moved to Cochin and hammered out a free trade agreement with the Raja in return for Portugal's protection from skirmishes and raids by the Zamorin. Vasco da Gama's third visit to Cochin was to be his last. In 1524 he was brought out of retirement and sent to India as Viceroy for Portugal. He died of malaria in Cochin on Christmas Eve that same year. We are glad there is no malaria here today!

Next was the Santa Cruz Basilica - a Catholic church originally built of wood in 1506 but rebuilt several times, this reincarnation was 1902. Pastel colours for flamboyant murals and ceramics, interesting aisle floor.

A neighbour at home, Dom, told us about the Teapot cafe he frequented on his gap year so we did a welcome pit stop there. It was lovely, very quirky, with lots of tea pots all shapes and sizes and tables with bases of tea chests. We each had a refreshing lime juice soda and I had a healthy green tea. Just the job for temperatures getting on for 30C

Onwards to the Indo-Portuguese Museum - which was a bit of a misnomer as it consisted of church regalia. Only to be expected I suppose as it was set in the gardens of the Bishop of Cochin's sumptuous house and preserves one of the earliest of India's Catholic communities.

I was more interested in the resurfacing of the road outside. Really hot work. The tar was delivered in an oil drum and melted in situ into a tank with a tap (on the end nearest us) that filled a bucket which was transported by hand to the orange machine behind which mixed it with aggregate ready for spreading, or at least I think that was what was going on....

As I have got men at work it seems only right I have a photo of women at work. This is a very snatched shot as we passed an open doorway near the Parade Ground in Cochin, the women were washing clothes, I heard the thwack of the washing hit the stone first then spotted them away deep inside the house. I hope its not too dark, I may need to adjust my camera settings or take my sunnies off while shooting!

Back to the hotel, to the pool, to swim and cool off and then snooze on the loungers. All the Europeans here do this, none of us are quite right on the time difference and I have to say it does look rather like an old peoples home while we are all taking a nap lined up by the side of the pool ! No photos of that needless to say!


Philippa said...

Oi. Great pics and history lesson, but is that actually keith in the top pic? Was that a hire car or a taxi? lol x

Ann said...

Lol! Yep Keith is now the Lewis Hamilton of Tuk Tuk drivers - actually I think they are called rickshaws here - they are tuk tuks in Thailand!