Our hotel was half-way between Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. It was a ‘museum hotel’ based in a converted granary with lots of interesting items on display including a vintage car, a gramophone and an old-fashioned movie camera.
The breakfast area faced the river where we spotted two herons, a kingfisher, a cormorant and a bald-headed eagle.
We got a tuk-tuk to Fort Kochi to see the Chinese Fishing Nets. They were a little disappointing. On the internet you see pictures of them silhouetted against a sun rise or sun set but, in the day, you could see all the industrial coastline which spoiled the effect.
We then walked along to the parade ground where there were lots of young men playing football and towards the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica. There are a lot of churches in Kerala with illuminated portraits of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Christianity is the third most practised religion in Kerala, accounting for 18% of the population. It dates back to AD52 with the arrival of St Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, at the ancient seaport of Muziris on the Kerala coast.
We ate at Mary’s Kitchen, which has been recommended on TripAdvisor and then we walked back to our hotel. The town seemed to come alive at night and there were lots of people on streets. There was a big parade with drummers and performers carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. At one point they let off a load of firecrackers on the pavement. It felt a lot safer wandering the streets at night in Kochi than in New Delhi.
The next day we walked in the opposite direction to Mattancherry. We discovered lots of spice and tea shops on the way and I bought a lovely wooden box with some chai masala tea in it for 500 rupees.
Then we went down to Mattancherry Palace (otherwise known as the Dutch palace). It cost 5 rupees (5p) to get in, which surprised us as we were expecting to pay foreigners’ price as we had in Rajasthan. You couldn’t take photos inside, but there were some beautiful murals inside telling stories of the Hindu gods. There were also displays about the history of Kochi. Most people were just walking straight past everything, and some people were ignoring the No Photography signs, but I enjoyed exploring the museum.
Mattancherry Palace is close to ‘Jew Town’ which is a pleasant shopping area. A lot of the shops have a ‘no hassle’ pledge displayed outside their doors, but that didn’t stop men trying to get you into their shops ‘just to look for two minutes’. Apparently, I broke several hearts by not going into shops, but it was all done in a fairly good natured and pleasant way. There were some nice textiles and some lace, but everything was quite expensive.
Our next stop was the Paradesi synagogue. I had never been to a synagogue before. It was smaller than I was expecting; there was an alter and a space for prayer, and an interesting display outlining the persecution of Jews throughout history. It was a particularly poignant visit given that there had been an attack on a synagogue in America just the day before. The synagogue, which was built in 1568, was decorated with blue and white floor tiles, each one of them subtly different.
Afterwards, we stopped at the Sree Ganesha restaurant on Synagogue Lane for some lunch and tried dosa – rice pancakes served with pickles and sauces.
Our final activity in Kochi was a Kathakali dance performance which I will write about in my next post.