Thursday, April 24, 2008
Hello from Varanasi!
Varanasi is chaotic, crazy, and I love it! I may be one of the only ones though. Most of my friends here feel spooked by the proximity of death. The burning ghats send out an ominous feeling to those of us who are detached from death. I did not see floating bodies in the Ganges which is not uncommon, but we did see bodies being cremated on the river's edge and urns with ashes floating down the river. While I was not completely comfortable what I saw I was not as affect as my friends. Varanasi also has a dark side which has been fatal to tourist over the years, I won't go into details but these events added to the eeriness of the city. While my friends felt on their guard more so than other places, I felt no different, I am always on my guard.
We found some fabulous restaurants in our explorations of the city ( limited as they were from heat and a need to avoid large parts of the city). The Brown Bread Bakery gets a nod from me! Freshly baked cheese croissant (gouda on the inside, cheddar on the outside!) was amazing, as was the hot chocolate! Indian food? Didn't really eat any in Varanasi, just Middle Eastern and bakery food.
So what were the highlights beside the food? The early morning (5am) boat trip and the sunset flower/candle ceremony. Each flower we dropped was to be accompanied with a wish. The flower/candle ceremony was on my niece Theo's birthday so of course she got the first in, and since I know she loves to share, I dropped a candle in on her behalf for each of her cousins, her aunts and uncles, her grandparents, and her parents. There were still candles to float so I sent some off with wishes of health for myself ( my list of aliments continues to grow) and for my travels. It was so beautiful to watch the candles flicker as they floated down the river. It reminded me of the days of "lanterns for peace" and my first steps as an anti nuclear proliferation activist.
Varanasi is a city that is older than history. There is no founding date, it has always been, and is perhaps the oldest city in the world. It is ancient, it has a dark side, it is chaotic, but it is intoxicating.
I am now in Rishikish, up in the hills where the Beatles went to meditate.
More from the hills later.