A Day at Srinagar


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“Kaisa laaga Srinagar?” [What do you think about Srinagar?], asked the man as he handed over a bowl of chilled sewainya. Fascinated as we were seeing sewainya or vermicelli pudding available as street food and engrossed in our own animated discussions about the same, none of us payed heed to the question.

Isn’t sewainya or seviyaan a quintessential Eid festival food! Have you ever seen sewainya sold by the roadside back in Bangalore or Hyderabad! The afternoon sun glared at us as the excited discussions continued and the chilled and deliciously rich sewainya did good to calm us down.

“Toh kaisa laaga Srinagar?”, the man repeated his question. As we answered, he went on, “Kiya socha tha aane se pehle?” [What was your opinion before you came here?]; “Aise hi log Srinagar ko badnaam karte hain, tourist ko koi kuch nehi karta” [People paint a wrong picture of Srinagar, tourists are safe here]; and so on and so forth. This was not the first time we were answering such questions. Every second person we interacted with asked us similar questions.           [All of these stemming from the ongoing volatile political situation in Jammu and Kashmir].

We had a day to spend in Srinagar on our way back from Kashmir Great Lakes trek. While some people decided to explore Gulmarg, others thought of walking the streets of Srinagar to get a feel of the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir. The latter appealed to me and I decided to join them, which did not turn out to be a great idea as I soon discovered.

This group landed up spending most of their time shopping, which is something that hardly interests me. Though I do enjoy exploring local markets and indulging in a little bit of shopping too but spending the better part of the day just buying stuff does not appeal to me at all. Perhaps, going off on my own and visiting places like Mughal Gardens and Adi Shankarachaya temple would have been a better deal. Anyway, when in a group, you do what the group does.

Eventually I had to satisfy myself with only Lal Chowk and Chasme Shahi.

Lal Chowk

Lal Chowk, literally translates as Red Square, is the city center of Srinagar located in the heart of the city. Traditionally, it has been a place for political meetings and was named by left wing activists who fought Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruling Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.

Lined with a variety of shops, Lal Chowk is the oldest and most popular shopping destination in Srinagar. A place called Kokar Bazar at Lal Chowk was recommended to us for buying authentic Kashmiri dry fruits, nuts, and saffron. It being Sunday, most of Kokar Bazar was closed but the couple of shops that were open served our purpose well.

We strolled around the busy pavements of Lal Chowk absorbing the essence of Srinagar through the colourful embroidered pherans, apples at just Rs. 25 a Kilo, the prominent clock tower standing tall, the eye-catching but nearly hidden green mosque, and not to miss the unnerving presence of Army personnel at every nook and corner.

While I bought Pashminas and Kashmiri embroidered shawls for folks at home, others bought sarees and Kashmiri embroidered kurtas.

Chasme Shahi

Built around a natural spring against the backdrop of magnificent mountains, Chashma Shahi is a Mughal Garden characterized by manicured lawns, symmetrical hedges, landscaped terraces, sculpted fountains, and colourful flowers. Chashma Shahi literally translates as Royal Spring and was built in 1632 AD by Ali Mardan Khan, who was the governor of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The garden was a gift from the Emperor to his son Dara Shikoh.

The garden is split into three terraces and water flows from the uppermost level to the lowermost level through a series of pools and aqueducts, called chadars.

The water from the natural spring at Chashme Shahi is believed to have medicinal properties, which draws locals and tourists alike. It was a Sunday and hence the place was even more crowded with more locals than tourists. There is nothing much to do at Chasme Shahi, however, drinking the cool spring water did give us a dose of instant gratification.

Dal Lake

We passed by Dal Lake a couple of times during the day. Dal lake is huge and the vast sheet of water against the backdrop the Pir Panjal mountains with floating Shikaras (houseboats) look beautiful. However, Dal Lake in its urbanism appeared a little pale to us having just experienced the pristine and  untouched beauty of other alpine lakes in higher altitudes.

It was early evening when we found some time to spend beside the lake as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive from Gulmarg. With the setting sun in the background, the Shikaras mooring on the lake tempted me to take a ride but the rest of gang were too hungry and could not think beyond food. Reluctantly, I gave in and proceeded towards a restaurant instead.

Click here to read about the high altitude alpine lakes.

Food

When it comes to food, Kashmir is synonymous with Kahwa and Wazwaan. Being the tea person that I am, Kahwa was a must-have and I had my first taste high up in the mountains when it was served during the trek. Kahwa, the Kashmiri tea, flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron was perfect and easily surpassed its already fabulous reputation. Sipping Kahwa in the chilly wilderness definitely made it all the more delightful.

I am not a foodie but some of Kashmir’s signature dishes was on my list and most prominent among those was Wazwan. Wazwan is a lavish multicourse lamb-based meal that is intricately associated with Kashmiri pride, culture and identity. I learned that Wazwan is a 36-course wedding feast and no Kashmiri marriage is complete without this grand meal. Wazwan was a delight in both appearance as well as taste. I had never seen such huge spread of a single dish before – kababs, meat balls, rogan josh, ribs, korma, rice, pulao, and what not.

However, I could eat Wazwan just once and that too could not go beyond one-fourth of what was served. I struggled with the overdose of mutton even though I am a non-vegetarian and Wazwan was uniquely delicious. For subsequent meals, I found myself away from the non-vegetarian section altogether and seated with my vegetarian counterparts. A very unusual me!

The vegetarian dishes were a delight too, especially the Kashmiri Saag, Dum aloo, and Kashmiri Pulao. We did check out some great restaurants including Mughal Durbar, Shamyana, and Mummy Please.

Kashmir, my visit remains incomplete and I know I will go back to explore more of you….

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Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

29 thoughts on “A Day at Srinagar”

  1. Hope you enjoyed very well❣❣
    Kashmir is a beautiful Paradise,you might had come to know.
    But you didn’t mentioned anything about the present situation of living people here, Even the main problem you didn’t mentioned.
    I must remind you of that very thing.
    Hope you will not get me wrong. I m just telling to care about the current situation in my Paradise Kashmir Valley
    🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏😇😇😇😇❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Firdous.
      I really loved Kashmir, not just it’s scenic beauty but the people too and the overall culture. You are really lucky to call Kashmir your home.
      While I experienced the scenic beauty of the valley in depth, I did not have an opportunity to experience a lot of the culture and also the present situation and how it impacts the local people. I was in the city for just a day and so got only a very little glimpse of it through the random presence of the security forces. Many of the people with me thought this was suffocating but I did not feel weird about it. Probably because I grew up in the North East at a time of unrest amidst curfews and bandhs and so the widespread presence of security did not appear out of the ordinary to me.
      I definitely care about Kashmir and all the people there who are unnecessarily suffering for no fault of theirs.
      I will surely visit Kashmir again and also motivate others to do so 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very much true, Hariom. I had heard the same too and found it to be true. Dal lake is just huge but it doesn’t impress much. Also if you have stayed in Kerala Houseboats, you will not enjoy staying in the Shikaras. I stayed in a hotel as was recommended by a friend. But I did want to take a Shikara ride, heard that’s enjoyable especially in the early mornings or evenings.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautifully photographed and described as usual. Srinagar and Kashmir keep unexpectedly finding their way in to my reading over the past year or so. Perhaps someone’s trying to tell me something.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Shamyana must be an antique by now; it already looked old when I visited decades ago. The street food of Kashmir is memorable: including simple things like rajmah. Did you try that? I usually get back tiny measures of guchchi, and dole it out into my rice like gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shamyana must have been revamped as it looked great. Besides the food we loved the ambiance too. We were sitting in the outside seating area. We did try street food, pakoras and things like that. Didn’t try rajmah though. And, I had no idea about guchchi. Got to know only after I came back. Next time for sure.

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  4. Neel, from my Kashmir trip, I spent the least amount of time in Srinagar and only what was necessary. The best place I liked was Pahalgam and I ended up spending 5 nights there. Even houseboat stay wasn’t that good. I have written a post on my Kashmir experience and it doesn’t paint Kashmir in its glory. Many people might disagree with what I have written but the fact is it is based on what I experienced and felt. Say what you may, it is not just like any another state of India!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have also heard good things about Pahalgam, seen pictures too. I have to go there next time, this was an unexpected trip. I would love to read your post. Would you mind sharing the link? Or else, I will go and search for it myself. I did hear about the houseboats from many people including fellow trekkers who had experienced it during their onward journey. So most of us had decided to put up in hotels instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A former colleague in Saudi-Arabia – born and coming from Pakistani Kaschmir – once described the problems of visiting relatives in the Indian Kaschmir. Well, it requires a detour of thousands of kilometers and is very complicated. This reminded me to the German division, people are not happy of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some one needs kashmiri saffron or varieties of saffron like zarda, saffron powder etc
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    Like

        1. I think you can go throughout the year but if you want to see snow then winter. I think spring will be beautiful too. I went in September which was good too but there wasn’t any snow in places like Gulmarg.

          Liked by 2 people

  7. How unfair! Couldn’t you just write about the food and not give the pictures? Then I could have just skipped reading that section and reached the end. Now where will I get such meat-food here in Mumbai?! I hate you.

    Liked by 1 person

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