“You are wanting to see the Victoria Monument.”
22.11.2010 30 °C
Calcutta, (Kolkata), is renowned for its ‘black hole,’ the slums, and Mother Theresa, but we came to see everything this city of 16 million had to offer. Most visitors to our posh hotel in the heart of Calcutta are whisked in and out by limousine or luxury coach and wouldn’t dream of fighting through the nightmarish traffic, or the throngs of locals, to see the sights. But the highly-sanitized city tour, with obligatory stops at upmarket shopping bazaars for the driver to get his cut, is never for us. We consider ourselves intrepid, so, armed only with a map and the relevant pages from the Lonely Planet, we sallied forth on foot in search of the real Calcutta. “You are wanting to see the Victoria Monument,” we had been told at least a dozen times, so that was our first stop.
This masterpiece of architecture was built by the British in the early 1900s as a memorial to Queen Victoria – Empress of India. Here’s another view…
The building with its soaring rotunda, reminiscent of the Capitol Building in Washington, was designed in 1904 to be a meeting place for all; where Indians could meet their British rulers on equal terms. Today, we seem to be the only ones with British heritage here, so it’s natural that the Indians all want to meet us and have their photos taken with us. Here’s just one of the groups …
Now, with the Victoria Monument under our belts we go in search of the rest of Calcutta. There’s the Howrah Bridge , (it’s big, not pretty and illegal to photograph); there’s the trams , (old and not pretty either); and then there’s St. John’s Cathedral, (oldish and prettyish but it’s hardly St.Peter’s in Rome or St.Paul’s in London). “Now where?”we ask, and everyone replies in unison, “You are wanting to see the Victoria Monument.”
There has to be more to India’s second largest city than the garbage strewn streets, the crumbling concrete buildings, the teeming bazaars, and the Victoria Monument … there just has to be!