A sense of secrecy, power, awe, and Lenin – these are the images that cropped up in my mind at the mention of Kremlin in my itinerary. The Red Square and the walled complex adjacent to it have been associated with almost all the important events in the history of Russia. These were the first spots that we were to visit during our city tour.
Lined with sturdy red buildings on one side and Alexander Garden on the other, the Red Square dates back to the 16th century. Back then, the square was meant to serve as Moscow’s main marketplace. It was a place where people congregated for public ceremonies, coronations, parades, and also for executions. Now, it is a heritage site, which is closed to traffic and filled with visitors and tourists. Rock concerts, cultural performances, competitions, bridal parties etc. are held in the square. The Red Square lights up with fireworks and festivities on the New Years Eve.
We enter the square through the Resurrection Gate. The gateway built in 1995 is an exact replica of the original gateway. The original gateway first appeared in 1534 and was reconstructed in 1680, only to be destroyed on the order of Stalin to make way for large-scale Soviet ceremonies in the square. Between the twin arches of the Resurrection Gate is a little Chapel with a blue star studded dome. A compass embedded in the ground near the chapel marks Kilometre Zero, the point from which the main streets of Moscow originate and branch out. Read more
During our stay in Kathmandu, we were deliberating on going to Nagarkot or Pokhara, but travelling to either of these places meant that we would need to spend a night there to see the sunset and the sunrise. Given our short schedule, we ruled out the visit to these places, as it would be difficult to drive back in the evening after sunset. These are the tourist places in Kathmandu that we visited instead:
About 20 km away from Kathmandu city centre, is a temple called Doleshwar Mahadeva, which is believed to be the head of Kedarnath temple, one of the most prominent Hindu pilgrimages in Uttarakhand, India. Given its religious significance, Birbal suggested that we go there.
It was a pleasant uphill drive with views of terraced hills and the valley. On the way up, I requested Birbal to stop at places from where we could get good views. He willingly obliged.
On reaching the temple, we found that it is a small, quaint place in the lap of the hills. The Shiva sculpture at the Doleshwar shrine is supposed to be 4000 years old. There were very few people. The temple was completely devastated by the 2015 earthquake and reconstruction work was going on. We bought some offering and went to the shrine, where a local person recited a stuti (prayer). We spend a few quiet moments at the temple and then proceeded to the other places.
I frankly admit that the impression that I had formed of Kathmandu, until recently, was solely on the basis of the scenes of some of the Hindi movies (such as Hare Rama Hare Krishna, and more recently Baby) and Indiana Jones movies that I had seen. That was before we (husband and me) packed off for a short trip, leaving our cat in the safe custody of my daughter, who has come home on vacation. The destination obviously was Kathmandu – an offbeat place but well suited for a short summer getaway, especially for heritage lovers like me.
Arrival at Kathmandu
Taking a morning flight from Mumbai, we landed in Kathmandu by noon. It had rained in the morning, due to which the temperature had dropped and the weather had turned pleasant. A huge poster of Deepika Padukone with an Oppo phone greeted us at the Tribhuvan International airport, where I was expecting to see posters of people in their traditional Nepali costumes. Repair work was being carried on at the airport escalators, which made me a little sceptical while using those.
The hotel Annapurna was not very far away and we reached the hotel in half an hour. While entering, we could see the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, which was at a five minutes walking distance from the hotel gate. We decided to go there after we had rested for some time.
However, on reaching the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, we found that it was closed. So we kept walking towards the Thamel shopping area. I saw that most of the people on the road had covered their nose with a dust mask, which I later found is a common practice all over Kathmandu.
It was 1 PM in the afternoon. After lapping up all there was to seen in Pattadakal and Aihole, we proceeded towards Hampi, which is at distance of around 150 km from Aihole. The stretch of road between Aihole and Hampi being smooth, we had an easy drive.
On the way, as we passed through Kamalapur, we saw a lake in which the water had a pinkish tinge, appearing as if it had borrowed its shade from the nearby reddish hills.
Pattadakal, a small village in Bagalkot district of Karnataka, is a name that I had not heard of till recently, but after seeing the place enroute to Hampi from Badami caves, I was so enthralled by its beauty and richness of art that if I have to describe the place in one word it would be ‘mesmerizing’.
This small village, situated on the bank of Malaprabha river, is a UNESCO World heritage site with a cultural legacy dating back to the 6th century BC.
Starting out from Badami, in the morning at around 8 AM, we reached Pattadakal in less than an hour. On entering the heritage complex, I found a picturesque site of ancient stone temples in sprawling green lawns with palm trees lined on the sides, and with light red sandstone hills in the backdrop.