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Kashmir - Shalimar, Dal Lake, Moughal gardens, ... 2/2

Shalimar garden - water ways
Srinagar and it surrounding has some interesting sights to visit: There is an "Aqua Fort" situated on the steep hill in between the lakes. It creates nice view point from the houseboats, but as it is occupied by the army, it is not possible to visit. In the Mughal times many gardens were built. The most famous are situated around the Dal Lake. Closes to Srinagar is "Cheshmashahi" (Royal Spring - 9 km). On the foothills of Zabarwan mountains, with the famous spring, known for its medical properties. The garden was laid out in 1632 by Ali Mardakhan. Just under it, is a newly built Botanical Garden. It was created by an Indian government for local people to have a place to rest and relax. It is quite big, so everybody has enough space to enjoy a picnic with nargile on Sunday. Above the Cheshmashahi garden - three km up to road is "Pari Mahal" (palace of fairies) - it used to house a school of astrology built by Prince Dhara Shukho, eldest son of Shahjahan, who was interested in observation of stars and Sufism. There are spectacular views on lakes and surrounding mountains. The only spot on the visit is strong army presence and sandbags bunkers build in every corner. Next garden is called "Nishat Bagh" (garden of pleasure - 11 km) and it is a largest of the Mughal gardens, measuring 548 meters. It is followed by "Shalimar Garden" (garden of love - 15km) - built by emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan in 1616. It has four terraces, with water channels running through its middle. Just above it is a smaller "Harwan Garden" (20km) with a big water reservoir. You can climb up the small hill to enjoy a view on it. Nearby lies trout hatchery and Wild Life Sanctuary, where you are supposed to find the Kashmirs stag "Hangul", black bears, leopards, musk deer, marmots, various birds and unique shrubs and herbs. To get permit for its visit is quite hard - money and time consuming. Also we managed to pass through the most obstacles and entered into the reservation we were stopped by army about 2 km from the entry and even so having all the permits not allowed to continue. Well, that is India. Of course, the money you spent are NOT REFUNDABLE.

Shalimar garden - one of the Moughal gardens around the Dal Lake

There is also famous "Hazratbal Shrine" (10km) which enshrines the holy relic of Prophet Muhamad (Pbuh)". 'Moi-e-muqadas' the sacred hair was brought to India in 1634 by Syyid Abdullah and acquired by Khwaja Noor-ud-Din Ishbari a Kashmiri trader in 1692. It's displayed on some religious occasions during the year. And also "Jamia Masjid" (5km) the oldest mosque founded in 1398 AD by Sultan Sikandar. It is an architectural wonder with 370 wooden pillars supporting the roof.

I made a good friend in Kashmir. He is from Shalimar village, which is about 15 km away from the Srinagar. I have spend some nice time with him and also visited some local places, met with some of his friends and stayed in his house. There I had a lots of very good Kashmiri food.

Trout shopping

Last evening we cooked a dinner with another guy from Austria for our friends family. We got this idea with Uli (Ulrich), when we went to a local trout hatchery. We both eat the trout in the similar way (just cleaned stuffed with garlic and some salt and pepper - in the end sparkled with lemon), so we thought - why not to make a dinner for our hosts instead. It was really interesting for us to just occupy their kitchen and cook the dinner for them as they all very watching our effort. We cooked a 9 rainbow trouts (freshly obtained from the hatchery in the dream price for the western world - 150 RS per KG), with potatoes and lots of salad. Then we served the dinner to all the family and one friend who stayed for dinner too. It seemed to succeed well. And we had all good fun. I have finished the evening by smoking a nargile with Ashik's father.

In general, I find Kashmir very beautiful place with nice people. Though on the other hand, the strong army presence creates many problems. This is not really because of the separatists & militant groups, which for sure do exist! But in many cases because of the army behaviour to the local people and the way how the area of Kashmir is ruled. Most of the local people are really sick of the army and the way, how Indian government deals with them. This opinion is very common between all the levels of the Kashmir nation, from the simple people on the street to a well educated ones.

I must say, although the country is so beautiful and didn't have any direct bad experience there - I still felt under the pressure. Something like not being really secure and all the time expecting something to occur. This was a bit strange.

view from Pari Mahal - the old castle
I think, this was created by the stories I heard around and things which had happened only in one week of my staying. Like: I have learned about the granate blast & open fire on the army jeep on the road to Srinagar, which we passed by bus about half an hour before. Also six Indian tourists were killed not even a three weeks before my arrival in Srinagar. Sometimes I could hear some shooting in the night silence and two days before my departure the army shot to death a young - 22 years old guy - student - without an apparent reason. They left him lying on the side of the road in very inhuman way for quite long time (looked like some kind of trophy). You could see the picture of it in the local newspaper and all the locals were so angry about this, you can not imagine. Army's explanation of the incident was very poor and contradicting. And I am sure, this will cause many further problems in near future. There were already some demonstrations going on from the students and army had reacted by going to a college building later on and beating lots of students very badly there. Looks like no human rights are applied there at all.

Most scary on this all is, that this is happening quite often (as I was told), but nobody outside India really ever hear about it!!!!!

Despite of all this I still like Kashmir and hope to return there in the future for a longer time.

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More articles on China here: - "Kashmir - Shrinagar, Dal Lake 1/2"

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