A glimpse of the old market, Mattancherry
Waiting patiently for the boat, at around 8 in the morning, I sat reading about Fort Kochi and the Jew town. Most sources describe this older part of the city, as artistic and fascinating, with a touch of the Jews, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Chinese and the English culture. I too was curious to experience what I have been hearing about and all that I have read. So I decided to go solo and explore this old town by myself.
I occupied a place right next to the window of the boat, with a few tourists from Russia. These boat rides have been the most exciting alternative to the bus services from the city to Fort Kochi.
A photograph of the Kochi Kayal (backwaters)
Walking through the streets was definitely the best part of the trip. Graffiti paintings and street art, everywhere, literally on every wall; probably because of the recent Biennale that took place here. Wall art and graffiti that is not just dropping, but also creative enough to make you stand pondering in front of it for a while. I found a few artists, going on with their works along the narrow lanes, most of them being travellers and voluntary artists. For years Fort Kochi has been home to talented artists and has been blooming colorful with their creations. They have left behind vibrant trails which are exotic and one of a kind; I experienced these trails as I made my way to the Santa Cruz Basilica.
One of the most magnificent wall graffiti along the lane to Santa Cruz Basilica
Wall Graffiti –Jew Town
The sun had been good to me, permitting me to continue the walk without any kind of fatigue. I usually don’t spend too much time on the touristy favorites, but I decided I had to get a view of the Chinese fishing nets.
I remember the first time I saw these fishing nets in another part of Kerala during my vacation and dad had explained what they are, how they are used and how the Chinese introduced it in Kochi. Now I got a chance to get the closest glimpse of it. As the fishermen began lowering it to the water, people gathered around to witness how huge it is actually. Though the catch isn’t large, the fishermen even now use it to catch fishes and crustaceans. There are few restaurants behind, which cook the fresh catch, on demand.
Famished, I decided to get my breakfast! And breakfast at Kashi Art Café is a must do! Irrespective of the great food and ambience, the café displays a range of contemporary art works. This is one of the best hangout spots here. And if you are hungry, the café offers a lot. I digged into my tomato cheese omelet and cold coffee, while doing the morning ritual of scrolling through Instagram.
These streets seem to belong to another age, with the colonial architecture, the churches and the shops. Every street and to be specific every lane, gorgeously depict the colonial influences in some or the other way. Take a stroll along the Burgar street and the Princess Street to experience this by yourself.
Old Harbour hotel
From Fort Kochi, it took me less than ten minutes to get to Mattanchery, about three kilometers away. The ride was bumpy and was interrupted by a herd of goats.
The spice trade in Kerala has its roots in the third millennium BC and Mattanchery with its booming spice market is a vibrant example. The market was bustling with activity and crowded with traders and trucks loaded with sacks. Most of the building you find here are the ones build by traders who have settled down in Mattanchery. I got down from the auto, when I realized that walking through the market would be a better idea. The air is ripe with the smell of fresh cardamom, aniseed and numerous other spices, as I walked through the market on the way to the Dutch Palace. The market has a number of shops selling spices, cereals and food grains.
A shopkeeper feeds the pigeons in front of the shop, a scene from the Mattanchery Market
When I left home, I was told by a few friends to try out the signature biryani from Kayees in Mattanchery. Seems M.F. Husain ate Biryani here, every time he visited Kochi and was easily his favourite! After a heavy lunch, almost wandering aimlessly, I spotted many people giving me stares, probably seeing me click their daily activities at the market. I met a couple of ladies, selling chicks on the streets. On seeing me, they hid themselves or gave me gazes from the windows. There is a lot more to explore in this old part of Kochi. And if you are looking to get into the true soul of this ancient place, it demands a couple of visits.
The lady by the window- Mattanchery
Fort Kochi’s wall graffiti, the beach and the churches are definitely special. But there is something that leaves an even more lasting impression; the colonial architecture, the ancient buildings, the people and above all the vibes!