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Kashmir - Shrinagar, Dal Lake 1/2

Skaria carries whatever you can imagine
Kashmir is considered to be a beautiful - some call it "Heaven on the Earth". And yes, it's so different to the in Kashmir then in Ladakh. From a dry and rocky country you come to an amusing greenery. Higher mountains keeps snow all year round and it mix with the green of the grass and trees in summer. There are many trees everywhere and coming from a rocky & dry mountains (which I really love) you just cannot help it and you have to keep staring! It takes a while, before this amusement wears off and your mind rest and eyes starts slowly browsing around.

After arriving to Srinagar (capital of Kashmir) I of course stayed on the houseboat. This I believe is really the must, when you come there. At least for one night. It is so beautiful to be cut of the usual surrounding with all its noise, streets, pollution and also cars, tracks, walking people. You are left with a boats, water, birds and nice views. Sometimes enriched by a passing "shikara" (local small transport boat with a shelter like small roof). They can carry anything you might imagine - from a passengers, to a different load like household things, big gas canisters, vegetables, whole shops from the food to a carpets, ....  If you want to go for a ride, you just catch one passing or you use a smaller boat, which every houseboat owner has for use.

My host and his more than a hundred old nargile
It is unforgettable to wake up early in the morning, make a few steps and be on the boat terrace watching the sunrise. Surrounding mountains and its reflection on the water surface just enrich the whole view. This experience followed by a yummy breakfast (local bread with butter, honey, egg vegetable omelet and Kawa) followed by a Nargile (if only they had an Egyptian style tobacco here, it would be absolutely great). What else can you ask for?

I stayed on the Dal Lake - the biggest of them all and situated near the Srinagar main city. Dal Lake itself is 8 km long and 4 km wide. It has three main islands - "Ropa Lank" (silver island), popular "Char Chinari" - with a four Chinar trees and "Sona Lank" (golden island) at the south end. There are around 1.200 houseboats on it with up to 2 -6 double bed rooms including bathrooms, with modern furnishing, dinning rooms, kitchen, terraces. Most of them are decorated by a beautiful carvings made from "deodar wood". There are some normal houses in between the boats built on the small pieces of land, also floating gardens, ....

Locals resting in the Botanical Garden - near Cheshmashahi

The family I have stayed with was living in the small hat built just behind their luxurious houseboat, which they use as a source of income and inhabit it, when the tourists are not about. There was a small peace of land around the hat, but n my time it was under the water due to too much rain in last few days. The hat itself is secured on the poles, high above the water level. Family has seven members - three sons and two daughters (one of them is married). I made a friends with them and usually stayed talking and eating in their house, rather then on the houseboat.

Evening on the Dal Lake - Srinagar - Kashmir

Water merchants - my host and nargile in the morning
Because of the problems in Kashmir and recent killings of some Indian tourists I had the whole houseboat for myself. This mean a luxurious houseboat consisting of two large rooms, kitchen, living room and terrace - in wonderful quiet location of the back gardens with a stunning view on the "Aqua Fort", open water space with houseboat village in distance and surrounding mountains. There were just a few tourist in Kashmir, when I arrived so I paid only a fraction of usual price for such a luxury. For this kind of Supper Deluxe houseboat with a very good view and including food (breakfast, dinner, tea all the time, nargile, ....) you would have to normally look deep in your pocket. Out of season at least 1.000 RS (13 British Pounds) and in the season you start on 1.500 RS or much more per night! Of course, this would not be something likely for my budget, so I was again lucky with the timing :) Thanks to the reasonable price I stayed for a four nights.

To get ashore, you just need to take a local small boat or catch a "shkaria" to take you there. It is normal way of the transport, so you can just hitch any of them passing by. Lakes have their own community, much separated to people living on the land. You can find there everything - floating - wanna shave, see a barber on the boat, also medical services, tailor, various shops, restaurants, phone, internet - whatever you might think of - it is all floating around you.

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