History tells us that Vasco da Gama lived here and died here. I remember learning about him in school many many years ago. We saw his resting place: Vasco da Gama tomb. His remains were actually taken back to Lisbon, Portugal. He died 1500 something of cholera. The Catholic Church of St Francis is where this memorial exists. In the pews at time of service, the men sit together on the left side of the church and women on the right.
Queen Elizabeth came to this church in the 1990s. Very plain church and under restoration at this time, however, we sat in it for a while and heard history. Holds 3,000 people at Christmas time when all, even Muslims come to service.
Non electric fans in the church (operated manually) and there is a sprinkle of water so people get cool breeze. Victorian tiles on the floor are preserved and we take off our footwear in church as is custom in India.
There is a 6 months monsoon season here. Sandalwood grows like bonsai. Essential oils made from sandalwood oil. And this tree is also used for cremations. Next to the Banyon tree, we saw teak wood growing also. We walked along the water again today, watching the fishing nets working, and enjoying a breeze from the water. There were a few huge old boilers, that came from Scotland.
As an added experience, we walked through a residential area. Bungalows are mansions here. White with fences, and gardens like plantations. Cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, and white tea are grown and mixed in a tea promising anti aging. We enjoyed the textures, sights, scents and some even tasted from Cinnamon trees, giant lemons, trees growing guava, dates, and tamarind. There are over 100 varieties of bananas in this area, used as a natural preventative for constipation. Papaya taken for digestion. Basil plants are holy and worshipped here.
The music of the jungle sounds all around. Birdsong is tropical and exotic. Magic.
Henna leaves for tattoo … The henna ink is made from mixture of the crushed leaves and tamarind.
Mango tree. Custard Apple.
Vanilla Beans, grow like orchid but they are not an orchid. Have to pollinate by hand.
Curry bean, curry leaf. For use in masala and spice.
Pepper. Beetlenut orange fruit way up on tree. Neem trees, branches used in early times as a natural toothbrush. Maybe also is being researched to treat AIDS? And is great for skin care, apparently.
We pick the leaves, roll in our fingers and smell the fragrance. We can almost taste it!
Allspice leaves. Bariyani, tea,
I spy three cows sleeping in grass on side of road.
Coffee plants. In a market stall we saw yams as big as an elephant foot. Golden bamboo has many uses.
On the streets we see many Nuns and Fathers. Our guide explained that because of their work, there are less slums and homeless here, and less beggars in this area than the north. We saw a very old English cemetery.
Trees of every variety including the Worlds living biggest Christmas tree! It is a huge umbrella tree and can provide shade for over 2000 people. People today waiting to be issued drivers license take shade under the tree. For two wheel license you have to be able to drive a figure 8. That is all. There is an instructor that they pay, 50 usd to in order to gain their license hassle free. Traffic inspector is here j dear the tree everyday for testing and issuing licenses. There is no written driving test, and no rules of the road here! Interesting!
We were shown the Jewish cemetery before a visit to the synagogue. It is all in an area called Jews Town. In reality there exists only 4 families, 6 people of Jewish faith left. Many of them returned to Israel a long time ago. The synagogue is under renovations now, however we heard the history and enjoyed the beautiful blue and white tiled floor and oil lamps that are all still used today. When there are ceremonies, the men occupy the main seating area, women the upper floor (balcony area at the back). If the women are elderly and or can’t use the stairs to get to the balcony, they have a seating area at the back of the men’s area, separate. Not very modern or integrated however it seems to the be culture still in this part of the world.
We drove to the newer part of the city, New Town, and ventured into a local spice market … I got some ginger and it is tasty! (Hot and sweet with a bite!). Also some people picked up the cardomom pods, white tea, cinnamon, and saffron for making anti aging tea ( you boil a pinch of each ingredient together and drink it down for long life!).
We had an authentic and tasty hot spicy lunch and then a rest in the warm afternoon, instead of yet more shopping! We are so pleased we did not discover the Jews Town shopping district 3-4 days ago when we arrived. Phew! Bankruptcy averted! Lol
This evening, omg … We were entertained with a very colourful and expressive story telling dance group, drumming, wild face painted …. The story was told with eye movements, body language, costumes and mudras of the fingers. What a cultural immersion! Kerala Traditional presentation of the Kathakali performance…. Wow!
This evening we are packing and preparing for onward drive tomorrow to visit a Hill Palace Museum in a community of Kumarakom. Sometime tomorrow we have a canoe ride at the largest fresh water lake in Kerala. The hotel is Soma Kerala Palace.
Namaste, good night friends and family … Stay tuned for more India stories. 5 more days until I head home :).