Given the beauty of Rajasthan’s palaces, BRIGITTE author Susanne Arndt became slightly dizzy: a journey for the senses, through a world of velvet, silver, silk and emeralds.
The moaning of the peacocks sitting in the trees heralds the evening. Together with the sparrows and the tawdry hotel employees, who scrape the paths clean with their brushstrokes, they weave a sound carpet that gently slides like silk over the garden of my palace hotel in Jaipur.
And me? Lie back at the pool, but I had enough of it. After years of exchangeable beach holidays with a child, I finally wanted to return to culture and booked a tour of Rajasthan. The “land of kings” in northwestern India had been ruled for centuries by Hindu princes and Muslim rulers, who placed magnificent palaces in the landscape. A week of driving and driving through the fading world of fairytale maharajahs and moguls, and as the crowning glory of the Taj Mahal.
This morning in Jaipur, however, missed a sightseeing overdose, so now the pool break: In the morning I walked with guide Manoj through the huge fortress Fort Amber with its mirrored halls and brightly decorated elephants, then we visited the Palace of the Winds, which it Harem ladies allowed to watch the goings on the street without being seen. Then the peculiar open-air observatory Jantar Mantar was on the program, the Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II was built from 1728 to measure the time with towering equipment and determine Ascendents. And finally, the city palace with the two largest silver vessels in the world, in which Maharajah Sawai Madho Singh II had 8,000 liters of Ganges water transported to England for drinking, where he attended the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Some of the Indian princes made common cause with the British colonial rulers – in return they granted them a remainder of power and prestige. The last privileges took them in 1971, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
On my pool chair, the impressions of the day now blur into a sparkling fairy tale of emeralds and silk; When I open my eyes, one of the peacocks approaches the pool of marble, tilts forward gently and sips. The noisy India is far away.
The honking that stuns the ears was the first thing that came to mind when I arrived in India. Already in the taxi from the airport in Delhi to the hotel I realized: This country is loud, very noisy. On each of the colorfully painted trucks, inexplicably standing on the streets and blocking each other, I read the call “Blow Horn.” Which means: Who wants to overtake – and everyone wants – must honk. But the next day, it was time to take the train to Pushkar, where driver Chendu would receive me.
Galloping the train that carries me out of dawn Delhi is the soundtrack of my journey to the Land of Kings. Garbage is in the scrub, Milane circling for prey. Only the clotheslines near the tracks reveal that people live here. I stand at the open door next to the sign “Please do not travel on doors” and let the mild morning air ruffle my hair. Gradually, the city emerges bare land, where goats pluck unfathomable things from barren soil. The railway barriers bring camel carts to a halt, royally there is nothing here. Only the shepherdesses in red saris look festive, bright spots in a world of ocher.
You can not change what the gods rule
Chendu picks me up at the train station, he will drive me to Jodhpur, Jaipur, Samode and Agra and teach me Indian ways of thinking: Shortly after the greeting he explains to me that my sunglasses, forgotten on the train, are a cause for cheering, because the small annoyances of everyday life saved us from the big catastrophes of life. And after only a few miles, he makes me realize why it is completely useless to squirm in the seat whimpering, just because we meet a tractor on the highway: “If the gods have determined that you die on the street, you can anyway do not change it! “ Even the cows seem to believe in fate, as fatalistic as they are by road traffic.
The silence of the animals peering from the walls accompanies me in my palace in Jodhpur – some of the princely families have turned their huge properties into hotels to save them from decay. When I pick up my room key, a stuffed buffalo head looks at me with a glassy eye, later also crocodiles and tigers. However, I can hardly believe that the maharajahs went hunting with enthusiasm when I look at their portraits in the salons: youngsters with fluffy upper lips and introspective gaze, as if to say, “I do not want to have anything to do with this world do have!”
These men lived as if in paradise, in their palaces full of rubies and ivory, where only the finest cooks, the most beautiful women and the most virtuoso musicians were at their service. “Fragrant rose water rippled from the marble fountains,” says Guide Ajit Singh, as we stroll through the fort complex Fort Mehrangarh, which sits 123 meters above Jodhpur. A walled fairytale world secured by seven gates, high above the adversities of everyday life. “And when the rulers returned home from campaigns on their elephants, they were showered with rose petals by their wives,” he continues, sighing: “It was a good time for men, when I get home I only get one cactus.”
I promise myself unfiltered insights into the intoxicating life of the kings from Maharajah Yadavendra Singh, whom I meet for lunch the next day in Jaipur in one of his four luxury hotels. But the mustache-clad man in jeans and shirt does not just seem completely unremarkable – his world seems as mundane as mine. He goes to the gym six times a week and likes football. “In 2015, I flew to Berlin with my son for the Champions League final,” he says, biting into his club sandwich while poking something disenchanted in my coriander-scented vegetables. Because he is constantly looking at his cell phone, I say goodbye right after the meal. Continue to his palace hotel in Samode, where I will sleep today.
The whirring of the fan, which scares away the heat , lulls me. Friendly men hired him for me after I crashed in a parking lot just outside Samode. Chendu joins my hand and sprays iodine on my bleeding knee. I can not believe it! One is afraid of dying in a car accident, and yet fails again at himself or at the chicken, depending on the worldview. Chendu, who now knows that Chicken Tikka is my favorite Indian dish, asks, “What did you have for lunch with the maharaja?” – “Vegetable curry.” Chendu, in disbelief: “No chicken tikka, that’s why the chicken got mad and made you stumble!” I am not convinced, but I attribute the fall as a fortunate mishap that will save me from worse.
The battle cry of the monkeys boarding the palace tears me from sleep. Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh! I open my eyes in a four-poster bed that is like my bed at home, like a throne to a stool. As I step onto my terrace, two of them have morning sex on the parapet.
The Samode Palace has stood in the hills of the Aravalli mountains for 500 years – so isolated that leopards have already been spotted in the bushes, the porter tells me when he leads me through the property after breakfast. He proudly displays saloons full of velvet and silver furniture and halls, whose walls, ceilings and pillars are covered with the most delicate wall paintings all over. Everything is bathed in mild sunlight, which falls through colorful glass from Belgium. In these quiet, cathedral-like spaces, I feel that it must have been the aspirations of the princes to create with their palaces ideal worlds that kept the earthly suffering and noise at bay – perhaps it was related to the world’s eschewal that I saw in their eyes had seen in Jaipur.
The noise of the traffic, which never dies, robs me of peace, as I lie at the end of my trip in Agra the hotel pool. It is a concrete business hotel, there are no peacocks here. For millions of people who honk their senses, in an anarchic orchestra in which everyone plays against everyone. It makes me think about the normal life that awaits me at home. But tomorrow before sunrise, it’s only time for the Taj Mahal. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who ruled India from 1628 to 1658, had the mausoleum and park built for his late beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Look, I am the perfection that has come to mind
Photographed millions of times, I thought I already knew the Taj Mahal without ever having been there. But then the morning sun kisses the mausoleum and the calcite in the marble begins to sparkle. With the sun, the self-confidence of the white domed building seems to awaken, he exclaims: “Look, I am the perfection that has come to be!” Never before has a building touched me so much in its elegance and perfection – and I can only clear my eyes when a green collared parakeet settles on the bush next to me to pluck a mimosa blossom with its beak. Incredulous, I watch the bird as it flies with its fiery red prey on a sandalwood tree: What a charm of the world of the Maharajas and Mughals is inherent even today, although it has long gone down!
The tips for Rajasthan
Tour. The tour is based on the individual round trip “India’s Golden Triangle”, which can be put together from the catalog of Lotus Travel according to your own wishes. Cheapest option: 5 nights in a double / F from 530 Euro per person, incl. Car with driver, transfers, sightseeing program with admission and English speaking guides ( www.lotus-travel.com ).
The Park New Delhi. Business hotel with spa and small pool. DZ / F from about 135 Euro (15 Parliament Street, Tel. 11/23 74 30 00, www.theparkhotels.com ).
Pindi restaurant. Known for its chicken specialties. Chicken Tikka Masala about 5 euros (Pandara Flats, 16 Pandara Road).
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. The marble Sikh temple with the golden domes is one of the most important in India. The water of the outdoor pool is considered sacred, in the canteen kitchen thousands of faithful are being cooked for free each day. Visitors are welcome (Hanuman Road Area, Connaught Place).
Hotel Brahma Horizon . Modern, tasteful hotel, snacks are served by the pool. DZ / F from about 50 Euro (Panchkund Road, Tel. 91 16 10 96 99, www.brahmahorizon.com ).
Sunset Cafe. Great location on the lake, wonderful for the Sundowner. No place? Just go to the Indians, hippies and artists on the lakeshore steps (Main Market Rd).
Coffee Temple. Cakes, smoothies, pakora and curries are served on the mini-rooftop lake-view terrace (Varah Ghat).
Venus Leather Wear. Women in the surrounding villages produce leather bags and accessories at fair wages (Main Market Road).
Ajit Bhawan. Palace hotel with garden and pool, built in 1927 for the brother of the then Maharajah. Members of the royal family still live here today. DZ / F from about 125 Euro (Circuit House Road, Tel. 291/25 11 410, www.ajitbhawan.com ).
Indique Restaurant . On the roof terrace of the palace hotel “Pal Haveli” next to the clock tower you sit with a great view of the Mehrangarh Fort. Divine Chicken Tikka about 5 Euro (Gulab Sagar, Ghanta Ghar).
Jeeman restaurant. Vegetarian restaurant in a magnificent trading house (Haveli) in the old town. Palak Paneer about 3 euros (Navchokia, Fort Road).
Fort Mehrangarh. Gigantic palace fortress from the 15th century above the city with precious halls and fine marble grille windows. Admission about 7 Euro ( www.mehrangarh.org ).
Om Ganesh Export House. Richard Gere, Mick Jagger and Prince Charles are said to have bought scarves and blankets of cashmere or camel hair in the nondescript store, and international luxury designers have them produced here (Gulab Sagar, 1 Sutharo Ka Bass Road, www.omganeshexporthouse.com ).
Hotel Narain Niwas Palace. In the palace hotel with pool in the garden one sleeps in the four-poster bed under frescoes; In the opulent hotel bar “Palladio” Jaipur’s hipsters and expats come to celebrate. DZ / F from about 120 Euro (Kanota, Narayan Singh Road, Tel. 141/25 61 291, www.hotelnarainniwas.com ).
Baradari Restaurant & Bar. In the courtyard of the modern restaurant you can eat nice. Gutta curry (chickpeas with raita and yoghurt) about 8 euros (on the grounds of the city palace).
Fort Amber. The mix of Hindu and Islamic elements makes the 16th-century palace a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. 11 km north of Jaipur. Admission about 7 euros.
Palace of the Winds. Jaipur’s landmark: The harem ladies were allowed to watch the festival processions on the street without being seen (Hawa Mahal Road) in the oriels.
Jantar Mantar. Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II wanted to measure the universe with the built in 1728 outdoor observatory. The largest stone observatory on earth is a World Heritage Site. Quirky place! Admission about 2.50 euros (Gangori Bazaar).
City Palace. The Maharajah still lives here today when he is not studying in England. With museums, artistic halls, audience halls and the largest silver vessels in the world. Admission about 6 euros (Jaleb Chowk, https://royaljaipur.in ).
Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal India Pvt.Ltd. The cooperative produces fine fabrics, tailor-made clothing is delivered to the hotel within a few hours (Amber Road, www.carpetmahal.com ).
Samode Palace. Beautiful palace hotel in nature with magnificent halls from the 16th century. Two pools, restaurants and spa. In the nearby village, the craftsmen still work as in the Middle Ages. DZ / F from 265 Euro (Tel. 141/26 32 407, www.samode.com ).
Fatehpur Sikri. 40 km west of Agra, Emperor Akbar built 1570 Fatehpur Sikri as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The huge ghost town of red sandstone is absolutely worth seeing! Admission about 7 Euro (www.fatehpursikri.gov.in).
Radisson Blu Agra Taj East Gate. Business hotel with a rooftop pool and spa just one kilometer from the Taj Mahal. DZ / F from 95 Euro (Taj East Gate Road, Tel. 562/23 35 555, www.radissonblu.com ).
Pinch of Spice. Indian and international cuisine in elegant surroundings. Barra Kebab (lamb from the clay oven) about 6 euros (1076/2 Fatehabad Road, www.pinchofspice.in ).
Taj Mahal. The mausoleum built by Shah Jahan should definitely be experienced at sunrise! Admission about 14 Euro ( www.tajmahal.gov.in ).
Red Fort. Mogul emperor Akbar and later his grandson Shah Jahan lived here in unimaginable luxury, surrounded by a 2.5 km long wall. Admission about 7 euros (Rakabganj, www.agrafort.gov.in ).
The area code for India is 00 91.
Lake View Driving from Jaipur to Fort Amber, we pass the "Jal Mahal Palace"
Holy Pushkar is a holy city for Hindus, where many processions are held
Well secured Fort Mehrangarh has seven gates, the BRIGITTE author Susanne Arndt has all passed
Kaleidoscope Filigree murals adorn the "Samode Palace" - Hotel
Hot Goods There is a lot of coughing and sneezing on the spice market in Delhi - because the spices are so fresh and spicy
Evening chat At sunset, the holy lake in Pushkar is a popular place
Cool Oasis The Samode Palace pool has hand-laid mosaics