Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Fort Cochin - Day 6

Following breakfast we joined our guide for a walking tour of Fort Cochin. Our first stop took us to the Chinese fishing nets. The fishermen were more then willing to show us how the nets worked so members of our group took turns helping to lower and raise the nets.

Their catch... a plastic bag, two small fish and lots of smiles from the fishermen and each other.  While those who participated in pulling on the ropes cheered each other on, the rest of our group were doing some serious bargaining for serious souvenirs. Negotiations won a group member three strings of colourful little elephants. Something like the catch our fisherwomen made, the fun of the negotiation is worth the effort. We walked on along the harbour chatting and laughing.

On the serious side we had an informative visit to St. Francis Church, the almost final resting place of explorer Vasco De Gama. Vasco De Gama was originally interred in Cochin before his body was returned to Lisbon. We had a visit to Santa Cruz Basilica on our itinerary. On arrival we entered the front door and were informed by the caretaker that we must move quickly as it was time to clean the church! Always interesting being a tourist.

Southern Indians seem to be mainly Catholic or as they say, "Christian".  Almost every corner has a large church and the people you meet are proud to share their faith with you. The first thing someone will ask is, "are you Christian?" This amazes me as they also are proud to say that they vote for the Communist party. Kerala is, according to tour books, the state with the highest number of girls who have received an education and the highest literacy rate per capita in India. I can't say if this is true but I have seen more girls going to school and find that more people I meet, as I wander the streets, have learned to speak English. A great help to travellers!

Our last visit of our walking tour of Fort Cochin was to Mattancherry Palace. Now a museum, this palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555. It houses a private collection of art and sculpture. The religious sculptures are shared with the community for special celebrations, then returned to the museum and put back on display to await the next festival.

Lunch was on our own. This is always a chance to decide where and what we will eat. Today we took the guide's suggestion and went to the Hotel Fort Cochin, directly across from the Brunton Boatyard, as they advertise "The best prawns in Kerala!"  Those who had the prawns enjoyed them but to determine if the advertisement was really true we will need to visit more restaurants and try more prawns.  Prawns at every opportunity!

An afternoon free, then at 5:30 PM we headed to a local theatre dedicated to kathakali dance.  The first hour we watched the actors perform the ritual application of their makeup. We watched with cameras in hand as the makeup artist changed each actor from man to god. This ritual was followed by a demonstration of the hand signs actors use to tell the story. They are similar in some ways both to sign language and the symbolic actions used in silent movies, although kathakali dancers use more creative facial expressions and body movement!  India has so many languages and dialects that these symbolic gestures are a kind of shared language that everyone can understand. Even tourists! The performance itself was the retelling of a Hindu epic, a classic struggle between the forces of good and evil. Good won with slaying of Evil, we cheered, and headed off for dinner!

Dinner - our next epic as all meals in Kerala are presented at a slower pace making their length anywhere up to two hours - was at the Malabar House. Seated in the garden, by the pool, under the stars, we enjoyed every bite as a traditional drum and violin serenaded our party.

Goodnight beautiful Cochin.


  1. This was all new to interesting, especially the part about the Christians.Catholics..didn't know that about India. Also, how great that so many girls are educated..too bad it can't transfer to the other parts of the world..(the Middle East !)
    AND of course, I am constantly amazed at your mini paintings !! Love them and you..

  2. I'm amazed by how your mini-memory paintings of Cochin fit so perfectly with my memories of the place. I'm amazed!