New Year’s Day & we were up early to drive to Cochin (Kochi) a city, spread over a number of islands and promontories (the main ones being Ernakulam, Willingdon and Fort Cochin/Mattancherry) which are interlinked by a series of bridges and regular local ferry services. Situated at the meeting point of Lake Vembanad and the Arabian Sea, Cochin was created in 1341 when a flood created a naturally safe port. Later, it became an important trading port for spices, with the Portuguese, Dutch and British all playing a role in its history. The city is also a centre of Kathakali dance.
We saw and heard (very loud indeed) a local new year festival.
Historic Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European settlement in India. Vasco de Gama visited Cochin in 1502, and later became the Portuguese Viceroy of the Indies. The Portuguese also built the first European Church in India here in 1510.
We visited some of the sights, including the Jewish Synagogue which was built in 1568 in what’s locally called Jew Town. The floor is covered in 18th century Chinese hand-painted ceramic tiles and Belgian glass chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There are now only five Jewish people left in the town! No photos were allowed 😢.
Mattancherry Palace which was built by the Portuguese in 1557 as a gift to the Raja of Cochin in exchange for trading rights. It was renovated by the Dutch in 1663 and thus became known as the Dutch Palace. The layout follows the traditional Keralan pattern of nalukettus (four buildings). Beautiful 17th century murals depict the story of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, painted with vegetable and mineral-based colours and pine resin.
As it is a holiday today, there is a carnival so we explored Jew Town, the colonial buildings set around the green, visited a spice market where Prince Charles has been & saw the Chinese (cantilever) fishing nets with crowds of locals.
Difficult to get the picture postcard shot of the Chinese fishing nets.
That’s all for now!