|Hello all,After an amazing stay with Sunil’s family in their village outside of Palakkad we have found ourselves back in Chennai via overnight train to spend our last few days in India. More information on our time with Sunil’s family will follow, but first we would like to recap a little bit and talk about our experience in Cochin.
Cochin, commonly called Kochi, is the largest city in Kerala, and was first established as a port for spice trading by the Portuguese in the 16th century, although it was eventually occupied by both the Dutch and the British. The city still reflects many of these European influences, especially in the OldHarbour district where our group spent two nights in a beautiful colonial mansion that has since been transformed into a small luxury hotel. This area is a popular tourist destination thanks to the Chinese fishing nets that operate along the shore. While the origins of the nets are not entirely certain, they are distinctly Chinese in their construction, with long spider-like arms that drop the nets into the sea and then retract to bring the catch to shore. As Sarah mentioned in her post on South Indian Cuisine, these fishing nets are situated behind a bustling fish market that offers catches fresh from the sea. Although restaurateurs from the area frequently come here to purchase selections for their respective establishments, casual diners are also welcome to pick out a fish or crustacean and have it cooked and served at a nearby location (for some of us, including myself, this was a major highlight in our trip).
The historical presence throughout Cochin is also a big draw for travelers. One prominent sight that we visited was the DutchPalace at FortKochi. Originally built by the Portuguese as a gift for a regional ruler, the palace was later occupied and renovated by the Dutch in the 17th century. The significance of the DutchPalace can be found in its amalgamation of both European and Indian tradition. Much of the architecture within the palace seems distinctly colonial; however, the walls throughout the building are adorned with murals depicting Indian epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
After leaving the DutchPalace we visited “JewTown”, an area of Cochin that was historically populated by Jewish peoples dating back thousands of years. For a number of reasons, including the migration of Jews to Israel in the 20th century, the Jewish population in this area has virtually disappeared. The area, however, remains steeped in Jewish history and is home to one of the oldest synagogues in Southern India. This area was also popularized by a visit from President Obama, and as a result, shopkeepers and rickshaw drivers alike are all too eager to relate this story with American students.
More information about the events of the past few days will be coming to you shortly, including some updates from some of our guest-bloggers as we wrap up the final days of this amazing trip.
Best wishes to friends and family,