Marvellous Melbourne: 10 reasons to visit

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Local markets, eclectic architecture, cool cafes, global cuisine, graffiti splattered walls and much more, ANURAG MALLICK finds out 10 cool reasons to visit Melbourne

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A planned city laid out around a central grid north of the Yarra river, Melbourne is a vibrant, multi-cultural place known for its love of art, culture, music and food. In this buzzing metropolis the old and the new meet in a delicious blend of architecture ranging from the classical to the whimsical. Bylanes are abuzz with the chatter of bars, restaurants, shops and theatres. With regular events and exhibitions at National Gallery Victoria, Victorian Art Centre and Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the city’s cultural calendar is packed. There’s lots to love about Melbourne and here’s what makes the city so cool.

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In CBD, the trams are free
The best thing about the Central Business District is that tram rides are free. When you are about to leave the Free Tram Zone, there’s a voice alert! Walking around the streets and bylanes is a delight as lovely ornate buildings dot the entire CBD area. In the rectangular grid, every street has an immediate equivalent lane from north to south – Flinder’s Street, Flinder’s Lane, Collins Street, Collins Lane, and so on.

From the western end, you have Spencer street named after the influential Spencer family to which Winston Churchill and Lady Diana belong. There’s King Street named after King William, Elizabeth Street after Queen Elizabeth and so on… As the local adage goes, if you get lost, all you have to do is think about the old dead monarchs of England.

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Laneway Dining
It’s a bit of a Melbourne thing to have bars and restaurants tucked away in alleyways, often without any prominent shop front or signage. Bar Americano is a tiny joint at Presgrave Place that serves good cocktails and seats only ten people at a time. Melbourne’s best Spanish fare can be found at Frank Camorra’s MoVida restaurant in the graffiti-splattered Hosier Lane.

Pastuso, the Peruvian grill and bar serving ceviche and pisco is tucked away on ACDC Lane. Adam DySilva’s Tonka presents Indian cuisine with a twist in a back alley at Duckboard Place off Flinders Lane. What they save on real estate goes on to your plate! Duck into any laneway and you’ll stumble onto something exciting…

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Street Art
Wherever you go in Melbourne, the streets are alive with art as if the entire city is one giant canvas. Corporation Lane was renamed ACDC Lane as tribute to the legendary Aussie rockers who hail from the city. Lined with funky artwork, fans painted the band’s trademark lightning bolt over the street sign because the city officials refused to change the nomenclature format.

Rather than chase kids spraying walls with aerosol cans, an entire lane was given to them in 2008 as a graffiti mentoring project. Union Lane, tucked away between David Jones & Book Building, is a great place to see local street art, besides Hosier Lane and Presgrave Place, which is known for its funky three-dimensional installations.

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The buskers of Bourke Street Mall
If you’re a busker, your ultimate platform is Bourke Street Mall. The popular location, thronged by the young and restless, has been running the sonic gauntlet for years and is Melbourne’s premiere spot for busking. But you can’t just land up here with your regular busker license and plonk your gear on the sidewalk.

Buskers must go to Melbourne Town Hall where they are screened, almost like Australia’s Got Talent or Australian Idol. The scene is very well managed and they can’t play all at once. There are three major points – off Elizabeth Street, Swanson Street and right in the middle. Unlike other street corners terrorized by wannabe musicians clanging away at pots and pans, the musical talent here is topnotch.

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Rooftop honey
One of the coolest things about Melbourne is its Rooftop Honey. All over the city 80 swarms of honeybee colonies have been ‘re-homed’ at unused roofs, balconies and gardens. Located at hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, the bees were resettled after their unwanted colonies elsewhere were saved from extermination. Being an agriculture driven country, Australia understands the importance of honey bees for a sustainable food supply chain as they pollinate agricultural and horticultural crops.

The reason why urban bee farming took off is the diverse flora growing in the city in comparison to the countryside which often has mono cropping. The result – truly ‘local’ produce of delicious honey unique to each site – Melbourne CBD, North of the Yarra to South of the Yarra. Buy test tubes or small jars for $14.95. www.rooftophoney.com.au

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Local sayings inspired by streets and buildings
Melburnians find a lot of inspiration for their aphorisms and adages from their cityscape. If you get out of a car or a tram onto a bustling street, people often remark “It’s busier than Bourke Street.” If you met ‘under the clock’, it was outside Flinders Street Railway Station. In the 1870’s it was fashionable to traipse down Collins Street in your glad rags and this fad was called ‘doing the Block’. When a shopping complex was built there in 1892, it was called Block Arcade.

Then there’s the building Buckley & Nunn, which gives rise to the phrase ‘Buckley’s chance (or none)’, rhyming slang for no chance at all. One of the biggest names in retail, (Sydney) Myer came in 1900 as a young Russian Jewish refugee who began by renting a small shop and within 18 years, he bought over everything. The 7-storey tall Myers runs all the way across Little Bourke Street to Lonsdale Street. If you are talking about someone who is too full of himself, they say “That guy has more front than Myer.”

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Reclaiming old buildings
One of the most charming aspects of Melbourne is the ability to take pre-existing unused spaces and reinvent them into hip venues. Like the switchboard room of the Manchester Unity Building where the controls were housed has been transformed into the tiny Switchboard Café. Postal Lane, an alleyway between Meyer and the General Post Office, was where delivery trucks took their mail in and out for 150 odd years.

When the Post Office shut down, some enterprising people started a few European style restaurants. Walk past the cast iron gates and dine next to signs that say ‘Beware of Motor Cars’ and ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted.’ Center Place, between Majorca building and Center House, used to be a rundown laneway where hawkers sold stamps, coins and knickknacks until it was converted into a warm intimate European style, lamp-lit alley. Today, it features in all publicity material of Melbourne!

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Exploring Vic Market
Established in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market is the largest market in Australia and the oldest Victorian era market in the southern hemisphere. Spread over 7 hectares in the heart of the CBD, its façade bears the figures of the Melbourne coat of arms – fleece, bull, ship and whale, representing the four major activities on which Melbourne’s economy was founded – wool, livestock, shipping and whaling.

Take a 2-hour guided Hunt and Gather Tour for $49 through The Meat Hall the oldest building with lively butchers and fishmongers who have been around for four generations. As the sign at Jago’s proclaims “We don’t yell to sell”. Walk through the Art Deco Dairy Hall and Deli for tribal flavors of kangaroo meat, fresh oysters, local cheese, handmade chocolate at Koko Black, Greek stuffed olives and more. Closed Mondays and Wednesdays. Ph (03) 9320 5835 www.qvm.com.au/tours

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Irreverent architecture
From the modern interpretation of Federation Square with shards to the slender spire of the Victorian Art Centre dubbed the ‘mock Eiffel Tower’ (it’s actually shaped like a ballerina’s tutu), Melbourne’s architecture is rich and diverse. All the wealth from the gold rush triggered a construction frenzy and in the 1870s, the city was hailed as ‘Marvellous Melbourne’.

Perhaps the most irreverent piece is the large clam shaped ladies’ purse made out of locally sourced pink granite and stainless steel by local artist Simon Perry. Created from contributions of the public purse, it’s a bit of an artistic joke that the installation is called the Public Purse. Pose for a selfie here or wait for a tram.

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Coffee culture
Melbourne is easily Australia’s coffee capital. While Pellegrini’s on Bourke Street started in 1912, is one of the earliest cafes to open in town, Melbourne’s coffee craze dates back to mid 20th century. After the second world war, several Italians and Greeks moved to Australia and Melbourne in particular. Aided by the timely invention of the piston-driven espresso machine by Achille Gaggia in 1945, the Italians brought the café culture to the city and Melbourne took it to another level.

With its laid back vibe, multi-cultural air, small independent roasters and love for the beverage, the stage was set for a coffee obsession that was only fuelled by the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Today, you could try The League of Honest Coffee for their single origin brews, the same blend of Vittoria beans served for the last 60 years at Pellegrini’s, grab a quick cuppa at Market Lane Coffee or try Manchester Press, Everyday Coffee, Proud Mary or Brother Baba Budan. As the sign at 1932 Café in the Manchester Unity Building states ‘More Espresso, Less Depresso.’

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FACT FILE

Getting there
Singapore Airlines flies from India to Melbourne (13½ hrs) via Singapore – 4½ hrs to Changi Airport and 7½ hrs to Melbourne. www.singaporeair.com

Stay
Melbourne has great accommodation options – Citadines on Bourke Street is a great hotel centrally located in the CBD. www.citadines.com

Eat
There’s excellent global cuisine on offer in Melbourne – Italian fare at Grossi and Florentino, American Diner and CBD’s biggest beer garden at Trunk, Indian cuisine with a twist at Tonka, Hellenic ‘filthy food’ at Gazi and great breakfast platters at Heirloom Japanese restaurant in Citadines Hotel.

For more info, visit www.tourism.vic.gov.au

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared in the January 2017 issue of JetWings magazine.

Assam: Chasing the Brahmaputra

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Assam has much more to offer than tea plantations, the one-horned rhino and the Brahmaputra; ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY discover slow travel while following the course of India’s only male river

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Named after the Ahom kings who ruled the land of the mighty Brahmaputra, Assam is a region of astonishing diversity – ancient temples, UNESCO World Heritage sites, rich wildlife, vibrant culture, delectable cuisine and tea estates that stretch till eternity. Its bustling capital Guwahati, once a haat (marketplace) for gua (arecanut), hence the name, acts as a gateway to North East India.

Like most visitors, our first stop was the Kamakhya Temple atop Nilachal Hill in the western part of the city. Seat of an ancient fertility cult, the temple is a revered Shakti pitha where a cleft in a rock is worshipped as the place where Goddess Sati’s yoni fell. In the rains, when the Brahmaputra is in spate, the rivulet flowing over the stone shrine turns turbid and red, symbolizing the menstruation of goddess Kamakhya.

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The sanctum sanctorum is closed for three days and reopens only after the goddess is purified with a ritual bath. Devotees collect holy spring water and shreds of the angabastra (stained red cloth) as prasad. The week-long fertility festival Ambubachi Mela is attended by mystics and tantriks.

Guwahati’s Kalakshetra, a tribute to Assam’s medieval poet-playwright Srimanta Shankardev, is the perfect primer into Assamese culture. Inside the sprawling campus, housed in ethnic buildings, is a treasure trove of traditional articles – murals, masks, silk saris, jaapi (traditional conical hat) and the red and white cloth gamosa traditionally used to cover the Bhagavad Purana, a holy scripture recited every evening in most households.

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Guests are usually welcomed with a gamosa and tamul (betel nut), often served in a xorai or ornamental bell-metal offering tray, considered a cultural symbol of Assam. An open-air theatre serves as performance space for colourful dances like bihu while the Bhupen Hazarika Museum showcases 4000 objects owned by the maestro.

We stopped by to savour local cuisine at restaurants like Parampara (excellent Assamese thalis) and Khorika, where a choice of chargrilled meats – fish, pork, chicken – is served in khorika or bamboo skewers with piquant mustard chutney. After a quick visit to the Navagraha temple, we caught the sunset on the Brahmaputra as it silently slithered in a wide swathe. Umananda, the tiniest river island in the world stood silhouetted in the fading light. The world’s biggest river island Majuli was also located on the Brahmaputra further upstream.

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A quick halt at the silk-weaving center of Sualkuchi and the pilgrim centre of Hajo to see the Hayagriva Madhava Mandir, and we set off on the Assam Trunk Road following the course of the river. The Brahmaputra is at its narrowest at Hajo (just 1km) but swelled up as we drove along. We marveled at the sight when our driver corrected us, “Ye nadi nahi, nad hai!” In a country where rivers are largely feminine (Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Cauvery), Brahmaputra or the Son of Brahma stands out as a rare male river.

As per mythology, Sage Shantanu’s wife Amogha had a child by Lord Brahma. The child took the form of water and Shantanu placed him in the middle of four great mountains — Kailash, Gandhamadana, Jarudhi and Sambwartakka. He grew into a great lake called Brahmakunda. Meanwhile, Sage Parashurama had committed the terrible sin of killing his mother on the instruction of his father Jamdagni. So grave was the offence that the blood-stained axe got stuck to his hand! After visiting several holy places, Parashurama came to Brahmakunda where he axed down the mountainside to release the waters for the benefit of locals. Lo and behold, Parashurama’s axe came loose and the blood was washed off, leaving a reddish tinge in the river, which was called Brahmaputra or ‘Luit’ in Assamese (from the Sanskrit word for blood).

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The history of Assam seemed to be written in blood as we reached Tezpur. Its ancient name Sonitpur too meant ‘The City of Blood’. Here, Lord Krishna battled Lord Shiva and his ardent disciple Asura king Banasura, to rescue his imprisoned grandson Aniruddha who loved Banasura’s daughter Usha. There was so much carnage, entire rivers of blood were spilt and the whole place was stained red.

While not much remains of the Agnigarh fort, Tezpur is a good Launchpad for Nameri Wildlife Park nearby. Amid impeccable tea gardens, we were based in the 1875 angling bungalow Wild Mahseer Lodge at Balipara for our explorations along the Jia Bhoroli river for the prized White-winged Wood Duck.

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But the jewel in Assam’s crown is Kaziranga. Spread over 430 sq km and often compared to African parks for its wide open tracts and quality of wildlife viewing, Kaziranga is the Land of Giants. Home to the Big 5 – elephants, tigers, Asiatic water buffalos, swamp deer and the world’s largest population of the great one-horned rhinoceros, Kaziranga harbours 15 threatened mammal species. We checked into Wild Grass Lodge, one of the pioneering jungle lodges in the region.

For two full days, we explored the park’s three ranges on jeep drives, elephant safaris, wildlife sightings from machaans (observation towers) and birdwatching trails in buffer zones and tea estates. A magical river cruise on the Brahmaputra revealed Gangetic dolphins, before we continued our road trip to Jorhat. Our base was the heritage tea estate bungalow Thengal Manor, ideal for forays to Hoolock Gibbon Sanctuary, where animated hoots announced the presence of India’s only ape, the Hoolock Gibbon.

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In 1794, Ahom King Gaurinath Singha shifted his capital from Sibsagar to Jorhat but a series of Burmese invasions from 1817 destroyed the commercial metropolis. 1823 heralded the arrival of the British and it was Scottish adventurer Robert Bruce who introduced the Assam tea bush to Europe. While trading in the region he found the bush growing wild and noticed local Singhpo tribesmen brewing tea from its leaves. The British East India Company took over the region from the Ahom kings in 1826 and after leaves from the Assam tea bush were examined in the botanical gardens in Calcutta, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam in 1837.

From Jorhat to Dibrugarh and Margherita, this is Upper Assam’s premier tea county. Local conditions are ideal for growing tea. The low lying floodplains in the valley of the Brahmaputra river has clayey soil rich in nutrients. The climate varies between a cool, arid winter and a hot, humid rainy season with the lengthy growing season and generous rainfall making Assam one of the most prolific tea-producing regions in the world. Each year, Assam’s tea estates produce nearly 6.8 billion kg of tea!

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An assuming town, Jorhat was the first town in Upper and Central Assam to have electricity in 1923. The first aeroplane landed on north-eastern soil in Jorhat in 1928. Jorhat Gymkhana Club is the oldest golf course in Asia and third oldest in the world. And the world’s oldest and largest Tea Experimental Station Tocklai is located in Jorhat. We enjoyed the life of a retired planter at the Burra Sahib Bungalow and learnt the nuances of tea tasting at Sangsua Tea Factory, before continuing to Nemati Ghat for the ferry to Majuli.

Packed to the rafters with passengers, cycles, motorbikes and cars, the ferry disgorged us at Kamalabari Ghat from where a van deposited us at Garamur. Staying in French-designed huts of bamboo and thatch, we savoured the rustic hospitality of a Mishing family and explored Majuli on a hired bike. Many of the centuries-old satras (Vaishnava monasteries) were established by Shankardev and his followers.

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Each satra was devoted to a particular art or craft – Chamaguri specialized in masks while at Auniati we witnessed apsara nritya and other dances. Our visit during the annual Raas Leela in November was perfect to witness night-long theatrical performances. Sadly, each year the Brahmaputra relentlessly devours the island bit by bit, making it a fragile vanishing ecosystem. The blazing sunsets on Luit Ghat seared on our minds, we reluctantly bid adieu to Majuli and stopped at the ancient Ahom capital Sibsagar with its lakes and temples.

The next morning, it was with a sense of achievement we sipped our full-bodied Assam tea at the Mancotta Chang bungalow in Dibrugarh. It was shockingly late for breakfast but then, tea gardens in Assam do not follow the Indian Standard Time. Bearing in mind the early sunrise in this part of the country, the British introduced a system called Tea Garden or Bagan Time that was an hour ahead of the IST! The moments stretched like the unending tea gardens and our sips were long and languorous. This indeed was slow travel or ‘laahe laahe’ (no hurry) in the local lingo. After all, this was Bagantime.

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FACT FILE

Getting there
Guwahati is connected by direct flights to Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Kaziranga National Park is 215km (5 ½ hour drive) from Guwahati

Where to Stay

Prabhakar Homestay, Guwahati
Ph 0361-2650053, 9435033221/2
www.prabhakar-homestay.com   

Hacienda, Guwahati
Banyan Grove & Burra Sahib’s Bungalow, Jorhat
Thengal Manor, Jalukonibari
Ph 0376-2304267/673, 9954451548
www.heritagetourismindia.com 

Wild Mahseer Lodge, Balipara
Ph 03714-234354/79, 98336 31377
www.wildmahseer.com

Nameri Eco Camp
Ph 9435145563, 9435250025, 9854019932
E ecocampnameri@gmail.com

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Wild Grass Lodge, Kaziranga
Ph 0361-2630465, 03776-262085, 9954416945
E wildgrasskaziranga@gmail.com

Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga
Bansbari Lodge, Manas
Ph 0361-2602223, 2602186, 2540995
www.assambengalnavigation.com 

Chang Bungalows, Dibrugarh
Ph 0373 2301120, 2300035
www.assamteatourism.com

La Maison D’Ananda, Majuli
Ph 9957186356
E danny002in@yahoo.com

For more info, contact
Assam Tourism
Ph 0361-2633654
http://www.assamtourismonline.com
http://www.assamtourism.gov.in

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the Oct-Nov 2016 issue of India Now magazine.

 

Peru: Paradise in Paracas

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There’s more to Peru than Machu Pichhu and Cusco, discovers PRIYA GANAPATHY

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Our van blazed down Peru’s historic Pan-American Highway, the southern part of the world’s longest motorable road connecting mainland America to Chile and Argentina. But I was heading south of Lima to Paracas, a secret paradise in the desert in the Ica region, a mecca for eco-tourism. Half an hour from Lima, our guide Pablo pointed out green swathes breaking the dull arid surroundings. Pantonas de Villa or the Villa’s Swamps in Chorillos is a 263-hectare wetland home to several migratory birds.

We passed the sacred pre-Incan archaeological site of Pachacamac dedicated to Pacha Kamaq, the god of creation and earthquakes, though the pyramids were barely visible. Further on was Chilca, known for therapeutic mud spas, UFO sightings and E.T. ice-creams! Paracas’ bright sunshine and peaceful coastline attracted the rich to build expensive summer homes and condos in the beach village of Asia.

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Soon, we pulled into La Hacienda Bahia Paracas resort, a virtual oasis of peace and luxury. With Spanish tiles in the courtyard and red bougainvillea vines on its walls, its rooms overlooked the glassy Paracas Bay. I would have savoured it longer but for the morning boat ride to the famous Ballestas Islands, pegged as the Galapagos of Peru. At the private jetty, Ronald the naturalist hollered, “Before Islas Ballestas, we stop at a geoglyph called El Candelabro of the Andes, because of its design. People don’t really know where, when or why it came into existence.”

Paracas Bay teems with rich marine life, birds and sea animals. Three of the six varieties of flamingos are found in Peru while Paracas in particular is home to the Common Flamingo. Four of the world’s seven sea turtles live here, besides otters and the endangered Humboldt penguin. “It’s one of the 17 varieties of penguins that live in Peru and Chile”, Ronald rattled on. The Paracas Natural Reserve is unique because it’s the only one that protects the ocean and the desert landscape. In 10 minutes we were face to face with what looked like a sand dune mountain with a gigantic cactus-like candlestand on it. This was the Paracas Candelabro.

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The ancient Pre-Incan Paracas culture existed around 600BC-600AD. Excavations at the Paracas Cavernas and Necropolis, the 2500-year-old mass burial clusters revealed mindboggling and morbid truths. Known for their exquisite pottery and tradition of mummifying the dead with delicate handwoven textiles using alpaca wool, the Paracas were among the earliest people of the world to experiment with trepanation, a form of brain surgery!

Trepanation involved drilling holes into the brain and covering it with a gold plate or deforming and elongating the brain as a form of medical treatment besides religious rites and ceremonies. “They couldn’t give Pisco to knock out their patients,” Ronald quipped “so they used hallucinogenic herbs, coca and a unique native Andean cactus to anaesthetise them. It is believed that the Candelabro design that faces the sky represents the San Pedro Cactus (named after Saint Peter who holds the keys to heaven) used in trepanation.”

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Another theory is that 17th century pirates, sailors and cartographers regarded the Candelabro as a navigational tool since it pointed south. Others believe they were created by aliens. But it is possible to create these designs, Ronald mused, “using scales, sticks and chords”. Documentaries like Ancient Aliens by Erich von Daniken spin fascinating theories about the possibility of ancient astronauts and extraterrestrial interventions. But Maria Reiche Newman, considered the Guardian of the Nazca Lines researched the Candelabro for six months and proposed that it was a representation of the Southern Cross constellation visible in this region.

Much older than the Nazca Lines, the Candelabro is closely linked to the Independence Age. When General José de San Martin landed here on 8 Sep 1820 with 4000 soldiers to liberate Peru from the Spanish Empire, the first headquarters of the Independence Army was in Pisco nearby. As he rested under a palm tree by Paracas Bay, he awoke from a dream to see flamingos in the sky and decided to put its colours – red and white on the Peruvian flag.

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This prehistoric geoglyph on the dune’s north face has been so well preserved due to the peculiar climatic conditions of Paracas. The cold Humboldt Ocean current that Peru shares with Chile ensures a lush marine life full of seaweed, plankton, fish and penguins. Because of the irregular water cycle, the water remains cold. There is no evaporation and no condensation so no rain. Only half an hour drizzle in the entire year. The wind blows sand from the desert from south to north…from behind the figure, thus ensuring that sand passes over it! Paracas literally means “rain of sand” in Quechua.

We continued to the triad of Ballestas Islands (Southern, Central and Northern). The picturesque cliffs with caves, arches and rugged rock shaped by wind and water were awash with curdled bird droppings. We circled closer and the panoramic cliffs seemed to pulsate with life. Against a soundscape of lashing waves, fluttering wings and myriad bird calls was the unstoppable dance of feeding, flying, feather-cleaning, fighting and fondling. I had never seen such a swarm of winged creatures in one place. The sky was patterned by avian constellations.

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Thousands of Guanay Cormorants, worshipped in these parts, blackened the entire cliff side. Guanay is the Spanish word for guano. “This is the no. 1 poopmaker, 90% of guano is from them,” Ronald cried over the din. In the 19th century, this natural fertilizer triggered a flourishing economy and became a popular Peruvian export to France and England who literally spent “shitloads of money”.

Giving the Guanay Cormorants company were flocks of large-billed Pelicans, Red-legged Cormorants, Neotropic Cormorants, rare Oyestercatchers, Inca terns, besides nesting Peruvian Boobies, another guano producer. Apparently they are called ‘booby’ because of their dummy gait! I spotted a rookery of Humboldt Penguins camouflaged against the dappled landscape. They were shockingly small but waddled down like old heavy-bosomed matrons. Anticipating our exit, they dawdled before diving into the fish-filled waters for breakfast.

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The wet rocks had other inhabitants too. Red crabs scuttled in crevasses while heaps of sea lions huddled and lolled in the sun, napping like beach bums. A few ‘energetic’ ones grunted, honked, yawned and moaned tiredly from the effort of hauling themselves from the water and lumbering over slippery rocks. There was even a beach for sea lions called the Maternity Beach where they breed between December and March. We spotted a small group of fisherman. Since fishing nets are banned in this protected area, they could only dive and pick their crabs, squids and octopus by hand or spear. One man waved a giant octopus at us… his prize catch of the day!

That lasting image of the big octopus dictated my choice for lunch at El Coral, the hotel’s restaurant – Pulpito Candelabro (grilled baby octopus). After trying the famous ceviche, I had my sirloin’s share of Loma Saltado Montado, along with another local favourite – the saccharine Inca Cola. The diversity in taste and fresh ingredients make Peruvian cuisine a big hit across the world.

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But a full stomach is a dumbass idea before a dune bashing ride in the Paracas desert. For one, the dunes are practically like mountains and secondly, a Dakar rallyist like Davide does not make it easy for you. No sooner had we careered off the highway in a 4×4, Davide suddenly swooped up and down and round on a sea of sandy tidal waves, spraying jets of silken sand on every turn. The nonchalance with which he tackled improbable drops and climbs revealed his prowess at the wheel.

We stopped to catch our breath and rearrange our body parts on the rim of a gigantic dune. Davide pulled out a surf board and asked, “Sandboarding?” “From here?” I squawked, looking at the incredulous incline and declined. No way I could haul myself up the slope in time for sunset. The whole Ica Desert turned into gold dust as the sun sank and an inky blue twilight took over the sky.

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We drove deeper into the desert to a tent in a sandy bowl in the middle of nowhere. In this romantic Bedouin setting, a romantic lamplit dinner had been set with champagne, skewered meat and prawn, traditional potato snacks with dips, guacamole, salsa huancaina and green ocopa sauce and gourmet dessert. El Condor Pasa, the lilting Peruvian classic filled the air as a full moon rose over the dunes. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Paracas is the ideal base to set off to Pisco airport for the 1½ hour flight over the mysterious Nazca lines. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has bewildered everyone for centuries by their presence, purpose, location and precision. The fact that each iconic image can be perceived only from the sky adds more intrigue. For years people had been driving right over them and didn’t notice anything. The Pan American highway built in 1938 cut the image of the Lizard in half because of this ignorance! Glued to my window seat behind the pilot in Aerodiana’s low flying 12-seater Cessna Grand Caravan we droned bumblebee-like 3000ft above the sandy canvas of the desert.

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With a cheat sheet of 13 diagrams to compare with the original line drawings, I scanned the landscape. For the first 40 minutes, the incomprehensible vastness of the Pampas de Jumana desert between Nazca and Palpa stretched like an enormous snake moulting its scaly skin, interrupted by a few green patches of farmland. “We are now approaching Nazca Lines.”

The lines of the Whale went under the wing before I fathomed its design. I focussed harder for the next. My heart skipped a beat as I spotted the distinct lines of the 310ft Hummingbird! Then the Parrot, the mighty Condor, the goggle-eyed Astronaut or Owlman, the 890ft Monkey with its coiled tail that inspired the Peru logo, the spider, the tree and bizarre waving hands…

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Was this the work of mere mortals or some divine or alien hand? How did they conceive it, let alone execute it? Nothing explains the purpose of scratching 30cm deep furrows on the earth’s surface in a maze of geometric lines and designs! But theories and conspiracies abound. Were these 300 odd drawings covering 450 sq km an intergalactic code or airbase for spaceships? Did E.T. go home?

First recorded in 1553 by Pedro Cieza de Leon who mistook them for trail markers, Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe documented the open scrapbook of biomorphs (bird and animal figures) in 1927 while on a hike. Maria Reiche zealously guarded them for half a century and concluded they were a calendar of solstice markers.

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Another find was Vina Tacama, South America’s oldest vineyard established in the 1540s. I stood there imagining how workers danced and sang as they crushed the grapes underfoot for the ‘first press’ of juice leaving the ‘second press’ extraction of the skin by horses. Deep in the Ica valley, set in a Suffolk pink hacienda, the historic winery was established by Francisco de Carabantes with a vine brought from the Canary Islands, to supply wine to the different religious orders established in Lima. From 1821 to 1889 it was run by nuns from the Order of St. Augustine. Even today, the 250-hectare vineyard is watered by its 15th century canal Achirana del Inca, built by Inca Pachacutec and immortalised by Peruvian author Ricardo Palma.

About a hundred years before the arrival of the Spaniards, this region was earmarked to grow the sacred coca leaf for the Inca and the surrounding Andean mountains were the limit of the property! Over time the estate changed several hands as did the crop. Tacama enjoys 476 years of antiquity and grows 23 varieties of grapes. With guided tours by in-house experts, learn what goes into making awarding winning wines and how the wine-making culture spread from Peru to Chile and Argentina. The Ica region is adapted to produce wines under exceptional conditions because of its climatic and soil characteristics, giving its wines a distinctly rich terroir.

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After browsing through the collection of old amphoras, barrels and distillery equipment, I asked Pablo why Peruvians contest the Chilean claim over Pisco, the famous grape brandy used to make the popular cocktail Pisco Sour. “Our best Pisco buyers are Chileans, so that should tell you who knows how to make it!” Touché. “Besides, our distillation technique is better. Its alcohol content is more, so it’s really fire in your mouth and you can taste the fresh grape on your tongue. Chilean pisco is light brown or amber coloured.”

The in-house restaurant boasts Peruvian classics, fine estate wines, pisco and lively entertainment every weekend. No wonder, Tacama is a favourite getaway for locals and international travellers. After a glass of chicha morada (purple corn drink), I scooped into sunny yellow Causa (Quechua-style potato mash) and a hearty meal of Arroz con pollo o aji de gallina (Chicken and rice served with a spicy sauce) between sips of wine.

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Spanish guitar strains added a festive mood as we watched the graceful romantic Spanish marinera dance paired with the gentle gait of a Peruvian step horse on the lawns. Apparently, the horse (Caballo de Paso Peruano) evolved from the first Arabian horses brought to Peru by Spanish conquistadores in the 16th Century, which were crossed with Peruvian paso horses. “Having one is like owning a Rolls Royce,” explained Pablo. Peru is indeed a living goldmine of unexpected treasures to be patiently experienced, one wonder at a time.

FACT FILE

Getting There: Several international flights operate to Peru’s capital Lima via Paris, Amsterdam, London, Madrid and Miami. Jorge Chavez International airport, 12km west of Lima in the suburbs, lies in the port city of El Callao. Paracas is 261km south of Lima (4-hour drive) and 22km south of Pisco along the Pan-American Highway. Exclusive yachts also leave from Lima to Paracas.

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What to Do:
Fly over Nazca – The airport at Pisco operates flight trips to the Nazca Lines. Aerodiana organizes 20 flights on shifts per day. The Pisco-Nazca flight (1hr 30 min) covers 13 geoglyphs. Tickets $150

Boat trip to Ballestas Islands and Marine Reserve and the Candelabro of the Andes, a national treasure. There are regular boats excursions from Paracas Port.

Wine tours at Vina Tacama – A heritage Spanish hacienda with dances, parades and a great restaurant. www.tacama.com

Dune bashing at Paracas – 4X4 drives, sandboarding and dinner on the dunes in the heart of the Ica Desert

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Where to Stay
La Hacienda Bahia Paracas
Peruvian décor with stunning oceanic views, boat trips, relaxing spa treatments with an excellent restaurant El Coral www.hoteleslahacienda.com

For more information visit www.peru.travel  or www.facebook.com/visitperu

Author: Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine.

Pedal On: India By Cycle

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ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY get their bums on the saddle to map out exciting cycling experiences across India

img_0387-pondy-cycle-tourThe location was perfect, the mellow morning set the right mood and our bicycles were the funkiest set of two wheels. Astride canary yellow and hot pink bicycles retrofitted by ‘My Vintage Bicyclette’, we set off at 7am on the ‘Wake Up Pondy Tour’. Our guide Manisha from SITA (South India Traditional Arts) led us through Puducherry’s less-explored Muslim Quarter – past Elliamman Koil temple, down Tippu Sahib, Mullah and Cazy Streets to the 19th century Kuthba Mosque, a blend of Mughal domes and French designs. Goubert Market, with its lively flower, vegetable and fish stalls, brought back memories of Life of Pi. After visiting the fishermen’s colony at the far end of the French Quarter, we ended at SITA’s garden cafeteria for a South Indian breakfast.

How Fiona Guerra and Idriss Madir, the duo behind My Vintage Bicyclette met in Aleppey and landed in Pondicherry, customizing bikes and creating cycle tours, is something even they cannot explain. They fell in love with India and the Atlas cycle on their first trip and decided to soup up vintage Indian cycles to brighten up mundane daily life. They revealed, “After settling in Pondicherry in 2012, such a creative and colorful city full of talented craftsmen and knowhow, we prototyped our first vintage custom hand-painted bikes for friends. It was difficult to ship the cycles to France and North India so we brainstormed to find a solution – ergo, the Pondy Cycle Tour!”

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With friend and partner Fleur Soumer, manager at SITA, a cultural center housed in the bright blue Villa Martine Marie Jacqueline, they crafted an authentic, local cycle tour. Since March 2014, they have welcomed over 1000 happy cyclists. Last November, a new afternoon tour was added to discover Pondy with ace photographer Gopinath Ram.

Fiona and Idriss admit, “For us, cycling is the perfect way to move around. Not too slow, not too fast, healthy, practical and eco-friendly. As urban cyclists, we don’t travel great distances by cycle in India, but do rent them in the cities we visit. We loved cycling in Hampi, Fort Kochi and Orchha. But we love it most in Pondicherry, a place we consider home. The city is human sized, to stroll along the Beach road is unique, as for the typical rides through the heritage streets and their bougainvillea…so cliché but unforgettable!”

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Cycling in India has taken off in leading metros with urban folk pedaling to work and weekday techies becoming rallyists over the weekend. Bengaluru is fast becoming India’s cycling capital. Till a few years ago, if someone flung terms like FTP and HRM, you knew he was referring to File Transfer Protocol and Human Resource Manager; today it could be Functional Threshold Power and Heart Rate Monitor!

Rohan Kini quit his IT job and founded Bums On The Saddle in 2006, a top-end bicycle service shop in Bengaluru where he’s the ‘Chief Wrench’. BOTS is the perfect place to geek out with Body Geometry Fit Specialists helping you find your unique riding position and intense training sessions to improve cadence, average speed and climb timings.

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It’s a busy calendar – from GMC (Great Malnad Challenge), BBC (Bengaluru Bicycle Challenge) to TFN (Tour of Nilgiris), the event that put India on the global cycling map. Started in 2008 by Bengaluru’s Ride a Cycle Foundation, TFN is India’s largest cycling event. Held between 16-23 December each year, the 7-day ride spans 800+ km, passing through three wildlife sanctuaries – Nagarahole (Karnataka), Wayanad (Kerala) and Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu).

Pankaj Mangal, founder of Bengaluru-based The Art of Bicycle Trips, says it all started when he and two friends went on a 100km bicycle ride to Cauvery Fishing Camp. After riding out 60km, they sat under a statue of Mahatma Gandhi when the penny dropped. This was it – being outdoors, getting out of comfort zones and enjoying the simple life of the countryside. In 2010, they launched their first tour the Bike & Hike day trip to Ramnagaram, the immortal setting for Sholay. Today, their wide repertoire stretches from Udaipur to Vietnam.

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The latest entrant on the scene is Bengaluru By Cycle, started by local boys Raghu and Nithya. Just a few months old, they offer a lovely Pete Tour in the heart of Bengaluru. Reporting early morning at Cubbonpet, it was uncanny to see the busy commercial quarter free from traffic. Raghu explained “Most tourists go to MG Road or Lalbagh, but this was where Bangalore started. We grew up here and know the backlanes inside out. Being fond of cycling and having done a DelhiByCycle tour in 2010, we thought of launching a cycling tour in Bengaluru. Unlike walking, you can cover a larger area on a cycle.”

Bengaluru Pete was established in 1537 around a mud fort built by Yelahanka chieftain Kempegowda. Originally spread over one square mile; today Bengaluru has expanded to 741 sq km! The 12km ride took us through the city’s oldest parts – a 250-year-old dargah linked to the local Karaga festival and Cubbonpet’s bylanes, where Bengaluru’s old culture thrived in garadimanes (wrestling akharas), temples and daily rituals.

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Sipping tea at the crossroads of Avenue Road, we smiled at the irony. At the spot where Kempegowda allegedly let loose four bullocks in the cardinal directions to mark his city’s boundaries, there was a ‘no entry’ sign for bullock carts! The highlight was Asia’s largest flower mart, set in the ground floor of KR Market. Established in 1928, it was formerly a water tank and a battlefield during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. We bit into crisp dosas at Udupi Krishna Bhavan as Raghu outlined plans for more tours in partnership with Jack Leenars of DelhiByCycle.

In 2009, while working as the South Asia correspondent for Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Jack was looking for a new challenge in life and began exploring Old Delhi on a bicycle. “It was a total blast! The best experience I ever had. So many impressions, colours, smells, beautiful faces, amazing architecture and great history. All clustered within the centuries-old city walls. After cycling for two months I finally designed the best possible route, gave up my journalism career and jumped into the deep called DelhiByCycle.”

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He started with the Shah Jahan Tour, a glimpse into the life and times of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his 1500-acre capital Shahjahanabad. Built in 17th century, it was regarded as the most prosperous and beautiful city in the world. Today, it is a 400-year-old web of alleys enmeshed with electric cables and infused with the smell of brewing tea and simmering curries. Pedalling past Chawri Bazar and Fatehpuri Masjid, the vibrant spice market, a chai break in Civil Lines, stops at Old Delhi railway station and Chandni Chowk, an outside darshan of Red Fort and Jama Masjid and you’ve truly earned your breakfast at Karim’s!

DBC has expanded operations with four other tours – the Haveli tour explores the lavish noblemen mansions or havelis in the 17th century metropolis of Shajahanabad, ‘a city of decadent Emirs, ruthless Persian invaders, woeful poets, mystical men, masterful artists and forgotten architects who wove dreams into the now crumbling contours of Old Delhi.’

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The Raj tour showcases the Imperial heart of New Delhi, taking in sights like Connaught Place, Parliament House, Presidential Palace, India Gate and Agrasen ki Baoli. The Sufi trail of Nizamuddin and the urban village of Kotla Mubarakpur took Jack the longest to develop (almost one year), integrating stunning rooftop views, Humayun’s Tomb and picnic on the Lodhi Garden lawns. But Jack’s favourite is the Yamuna tour, which includes a boat ride on the river! Recently, he designed cycle tours in Lucknow in partnership with UP Tourism.

Jack has inspired many to take up cycling as a hobby, if not a profession! After a cycling tour with him, Eleonore Gaspa and Ophélie Teyssandier returned to Jaipur to start their own company. Jaipur is packed with so many attractions, most tend to focus on the touristy sights. So the two French girls decided to create their own itinerary, showcasing lesser known aspects of this wonderful city. The thematic tours kick off early from Ramganj Chaupad leading guests through the City Palace district of the walled city, ending with a Rajasthani breakfast in Karnot Mahal, a 270-year-old heritage haveli.

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The Pink Inside Tour goes inside homes and workshops of marble carvers, jewellers and artisans, a wholesale vegetable and fruit market, cenotaphs, havelis, ancient temples, even the back kitchen of a sweetshop! The Pink Sensation tour covers everything from Ras Kapoor haveli (named after a courtesan, not the actor) to the local lassiwalla and a temple ceremony in an ancient Shiva shrine. On the Pink Royal tour see Jal Mahal, Gaitor cenotaphs, vegetable markets and a ceremony at the Govind Devji Royal Temple.

Jaipur-based Virasat Experiences, who started with walking tours in the walled city, also run an excellent Jaipur Cycle Tour. Ride through the streets and markets early morning, past Hawa Mahal to the city’s outskirts and 4km up the hill to Nahargarh Fort. Savour a panoramic view of the city from 700 m, before an exciting downhill journey. With local street food tasting and a Rajasthani breakfast in a heritage haveli, it’s a great way to get Jaipur’s local flavours. A more challenging excursion is the Nahargarh Cycling Expedition through the Aravalli forests to Nahargarh fort and stepwell, Man Sagar Lake, Nahargarh–Jaigarh tunnels and Jaigarh fort, built on a hill called Cheel Ka Teela (Mound of Eagles).

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Like Rajasthan, another classic cycling destination is Kerala where the topography changes every day – beach, winding ghats, steep hills. Kerala Bicycle Trips has been crafting thematic cycle tours for years. Starting off from Mattancherry near Jew Town, the Sunrise Beach Route has fishmongers, toddy tappers, milkmen and school kids for company.

The Old Kochi Bike Route explores a 3km radius of large warehouses exporting spices and tea, dhobiwallas and Christian, Hindu, Gujarati and Jain settlements. On the day-long Spice Coast Route, head to rustic Alappuzha or take the Hornbills Route along a canal bund road past lush paddy fields and coconut groves to the forests of Edamalayar and Thattekad. There’s a whole world to explore, if you get your bums on the saddle…

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FACT FILE

Getting there: Jet Airways flies to Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Jaipur and Cochin.

SITA Puducherry
Ph 0413-4200718 www.pondicherry-arts.com
Timings: Mon-Sat 9am-12:30pm, 2pm-8pm
Cost: Rs.1200/person (Rs.400 children), incl. breakfast

Kerala Bicycle Trips
Ph 97420 19837 www.keralabicycletrips.com
Cost: Rs.1500-4200/person

Delhi By Cycle
Ph 011-64645906, 98117 23720 www.delhibycycle.com
Timings: 6:30-10am
Cost: Rs.1850/person, incl. breakfast

Bengaluru By Cycle
Ph 95138 86305 www.bengalurubycycle.com
Timings: 6:30–9:30am
Cost: Rs.1500/person, incl. breakfast

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Cyclin Jaipur
Ph 77280 60956, 77280 60651 www.cyclinjaipur.com
Timings: 6:45-10am
Cost: Rs.2000/person, incl. breakfast

Virasat Experiences
Ph 0141-5109090/95, 96672 00797 www.virasatexperiences.com
Cost: Rs.1650-3500/person incl. refreshments

Art of Bicycle Trips
Ph 78294 86953 http://www.artofbicycletrips.com
Cost: Rs.1450-2500/person (½ day tours), $1695-3495/person (multi-day) incl. stay & food

My Vintage Bicyclette
Ph 84898 97427 Email my.vintage.bicyclette@gmail.com

Bums on the Saddle
Ph 080-41143064, 41505583, 73497 83178 www.bumsonthesaddle.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared in the December 2016 issue of JetWings magazine.

Goa with the Flow

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What’s hot in the country’s coolest holiday destination, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY dig out hip hangouts in Goa

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Everyone goes to Goa for a holiday. We are the only schmucks who go there for work. Eating at new hotspots, hopping in and out of bars and beach haunts, checking out new places, meeting interesting people, that kind of punishing work. For a place we visit so often (a friend once remarked ‘Arey, tum fir aa gaye?’ – an apt tagline for any state tourism board), Goa still holds many new experiences in store.

Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) was launching hot air ballooning in South Goa, Heli Tours, Duck Boat Tours from Panjim with plans to develop Mayem Lake. The same lake that generations of Goans grew up going for picnics to – it’s so old, Hum Bane Tum Bane from ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ was shot there. Plans were afoot to develop a clutch of five islands off Vasco – Grande, St George, Pequeno, Conco and Bhindo. Goa’s year-round festivities were being promoted – Bonderam Festival at Diwar Island (April-May), Sao Joao in June (where Goans literally go an’ jump in the well), Pattoleochem Fest at Socorro in August where the steamed pattoleo (rice and jaggery dumpling) is the star. Hell, there’s even a Ponsachem fest (jackfruit) and Touxeachem (cucumber) fest. Yes, food is indeed a celebration here.

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A new addition to Goa’s cultural scene (besides Sunaparanta in Panjim and Houses of Goa Museum near Porvorim) is MoG or Museum of Goa. Blue roadside mermaids guided us to the museum of contemporary art in Pilerne set up by local artist Subodh Kerkar. Working with a wide range of media in his installations, his abiding muse remains Goa – its sea, coast, surroundings, rich culture and heritage.

Collaborating with the ocean, he immersed antique ceramic plates and allowed oysters, barnacles and shells to create artworks on old china. Chipping and slicing through layers of red, yellow and blue oxides painted over time, he turned sections of old walls into his canvas. Other local artists too gave rare insights into Goa. Shilpa Naik’s Mosaic paid tribute to the mosaic tiles ubiquitous in most Goan homes. We discovered that Goa never had any ceramic industry and the chips were actually ballast brought by Portuguese and Chinese ships!

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Santosh Morajkar’s ‘The Motorcycle Pilot’ celebrated Goa as the only place in India where motorcycles are used as taxis. There are nearly 10,000 of them here. The first motorcycle taxi stand was at the base of Pilot Hill near Panjim Church. Since the lighthouse on the hill helped ‘pilot’ the ships in Mandovi River, the motorcycle taxis were nicknamed ‘pilots’! Besides MoG Sundays dedicated to Talks, Films, Expressions (11am-1pm) the museum hosts frequent jazz and music events. Subodh also leads free-wheeling walks on request at Saligao, Aldona, Siolim or any village a short drive away. Subodh’s private jaunts turned professional when Bambi, the manager of the lovely seaside cottage Ahilya by the Sea asked him to lead walks for guests.

We set off with Subodh from Birdsong, a charming 200-year-old renovated villa in the quiet hinterland of Moira. With peacocks calling and mist rising from the roads and yellow paddy fields, we walked past lovely homes to explore Goa anew… Rubbishing our fantastic theory that GoA was derived from Government of Adil Shah, Subodh conjectured that the ancient name Goapuri and Gopakapattanam was in existence and the Portuguese probably truncated it to Goa to rhyme with Lisboa.

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Subodh pointed out the scalloped curved tiles fringing the roofs of local homes. Apparently, the clay tiles were hand-patted on the thigh, giving them a distinct curvature – narrow on one side and broad on the other. The tile’s shape depended on how fat a person was! When the Portuguese came, the shell windows were already in use. In his book ‘Goa and the Blue Mountains’, 18th century traveler Richard Burton dismisses how “In Goa, there is not even proper glass available and they used seashells for windows”.

It was an unwritten rule that houses could be any colour but white was reserved for churches and chapels. Colours were derived from natural pigments – oxides of red and yellow and chuna (lime) mixed with indigo yielded blue. We walked past locals tending to tendli (ivy gourd) gardens. Subodh joked how his request to pluck tender tindlis on a previous walk were rebuffed with a stern “They’re kids!”

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Others watered their red-leaved tambdi bhaji (amaranth). “That’s karith”, Subodh pointed to a small gourd. “It’s very bitter and during Diwali it’s customary to eat karith before you eat sweets, symbolic of keeping the balance of bitter and sweet in life.” Straw and hay figurines of Narakasura were being built on the wayside, to be lit up before Diwali.

Tracing the lineage of what are now considered Indian vegetables, Subodh explained that the Portuguese introduced the tomato, chili, potato, caju, besides sweet potato, chikoo and guava, which came from Peru. The Marathi word for potato comes from Portuguese batata and the guava is called Peru! Bread was also a Portuguese introduction. For the longest time, tomatoes were not eaten by Hindus because they thought it was flesh.

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Just like the walk had no script, Bhatti Village in Nerul had no menu. Patrick’s voice quavered passionately, “Oh we have many varieties of fish.” Earlier a bhatti (feni factory), barrels and glass decanters share restaurant space with 3-dimensional stickers of Spiderman and Minnie Mouse amid strange wall plaques of crabs, lobsters, shrimps and fake flowers.

Patrick had us at ‘beef kebab’, though we said yes to everything he suggested – white bait rava fry, tisro sukka (clam coconut), saudalo (butterfish)), dodyaro (saltpan fish), shark ambotik (sweet sour red gravy), ending with Sera dura, a heavenly Portuguese dessert. “You want Guizad as well – you won’t get in any restaurant! And I’ve packed the ambotik, heat it tomorrow and eat it with poi. Should I pack some poi?” Patrick called over our retreating shoulders as we staggered out, heavy-bellied and weak-kneed.

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Locals take great pride in their culinary heroes – be it Anton in Nachinola or Eldridge Lobo at Eldou’s in Siolim, Sabita Fernandes at Amigos for crab hunting and Jurassic crab, cafreal at Florentine’s in Saligao or beef roast and ox tongue at Mafia Cocktails in Pilerne, run by Tony and his famous ‘Sister Cook’. But a new generation of chefs at Goa’s welcoming shores were tantalizing local palates.

From Greek cuisine at Thalassa, Vagator to Australian Masterchef Sarah Todd’s nextdoor restaurant Antares, the making of which is a six-part documentary on SBS, there’s lots to dig in to. Sarah’s Scents of India cocktail seemed right out of a ‘Hassan weds Mehjabeen’ wedding platter and we were happy to have space for dessert and homemade gelato at Baba Au Rhum, doing well in its new location in Anjuna.

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Elevar in Ashvem currently boasts the best view and food in town. The latest offering of chef Chris Saleem (Sublime Morjim fame) treated us to excellent Seabass Carpaccio, Celery fried prawns, Papaya-spinach-prawns-lotus root salad, seared bass with pesto tapioca and tandoori prawns over saffron fenugreek risotto.

His style is ‘flashy and mainstream.’ “I like to give people what they want,” Chris admits. Earlier, we were floored at The Tavern in Fort Tiracol (where Chris was roped in to curate the menu), by exemplary dishes like spaghetti with Tiracol clams and fish fillet with Goan chorizo crust.

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Stefan Marias, a Frenchman from South Africa, was now helming the beachside restaurant Go with the Flow overlooking Baga Creek. With two new outdoor decks, the restaurant spills out of the verandah of the 1928 Filomena Cottage onto the gardens with a makebelieve river meandering through that lights up at night. We wolfed down the Mozambican style Prawn Nacional and crispy salt n pepper squid in no time.

In the bustling Candolim-Calangute stretch, the talented Mr. Bomra stirs up what some describe as the ‘best Burmese restaurant outside Burma’. A friend quipped “To be honest, how many Burmese restaurants are there outside Burma?” On our anonymous visit, the steward clarified, “The chef is Burmese, but the food is not. It’s whatever he likes to make.”

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Once when some American guests complimented how tender the Aldona slow roast suckling pig was, the manager Chris remarked, “Of course it is. It is a suckling pig, it was suckling on its mother when we took it away and slaughtered it. It’s a baby, that’s why it’s so tender.” Baulking, the guests set down their cutlery and left. Clearly, eccentricity has always been in Goa’s gene.

Like Pondicherry, the fusion of cafeterias and boutiques has caught on in Goa. Latika Khosla’s gorgeous home store Freedom Tree in a seagreen Portuguese villa in Sangolda houses hobo-chic styled crockery, lighting, rugs and furniture. After shopping, step into the adjacent Mustard restaurant, which sums up France and Bengal’s passion for food in one seed – the tiny yet, omnipresent mustard! Conceptualised by Shilpa Sharma and Poonam Singh, the restaurant was actually the villa’s old kitchen!

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The subtle nuanced flavours of East Bengal have been perfectly curated by food historian Pritha Sen and the delicate notes of French cuisine put together by Chef Gregory Bazire. Here, regional specialities like Shukto and Mochar Ghonto rub shoulders with authentic European favourites like Tuna Pan Bangnat and Tortelloni a la Giardinera.

The sharp tamarind tang of Tentul Joler Sherbet spiked with vodka and a bowl of Chilled Cucumber Latte (Goan cucumbers with Bengali kasundi with mint and mustard sprouts) was the perfect appetizer. We embarked on Mustard’s journey to ‘savour the flavour’ of Dhoom Pukth Mach (Smoked Chonak Fish) and Kosha Mangsho with Luchi. Except for certain traditional ingredients, the restaurant follows a zero mile green philosophy and sources everything locally. You can even buy a pot of microgreens to spruce up your salad at home!

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Thanks to its low faded signage, Satish Warrier’s Gunpowder Restaurant (two houses away from the new Fabindia outlet in Assagao) is a blink-and-miss restaurant set in the backyard of Cursino Villa, an old Portuguese home. Hidden within a leafy compound behind the well-known boutique PeopleTree design studio, Gunpowder’s Peninsular Kitchen stirs up Syrian Christian beef, chilli pork ribs, crispy natoli fry (anchovies), appams and regional delicacies.

Complementing Gunpowder’s South Indian flavours is the cool new bar designed by ace mixologist Evgenya Pradznik, a Russian who has mixed her way from Moscow, Mumbai, Delhi, Lebanon to Goa. Behind her teak bar counter, she uses locally sourced turmeric, ginger, spices and fruits. They grow their own herbs like thyme, lemongrass, black pepper and 200 pineapple shrubs. “Though we have so many options to choose from, my idea is to stick to classic combinations made with full respect to the main spirit.”

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Evgenya had some homemade brandy with dry apricot macerated in Riesling stashed away, date liqueur in white rum and mad new concoctions like Pop Fashion, a version of Old Fashioned with an infusion of popcorn in bourbon. We tried the Ginger Cucumber Caipiroska and Tamarind Pineapple Margarita and teetered out…

It seemed like an abandoned rundown village house except for the vines of Chinese lights wrapping it in a warm firefly glow. The peeling plaster on the mud walls disguised its twilight avatar where people flit in like moths towards lamplight. Soro, strategically located on the Assagao-Siolim road is a New York style pub masquerading as a Goan village bar.

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Exposed brick walls, retro style posters, multi-coloured geometric floor tiles reminiscent of Mexican homes, bald filament bulbs and stage lights, industrial pipes and quaint relics of juicers make a bold design statement. Old world bar stools propped next to large windows overlook foliage and fields beyond. Named after the Konkani word for liquor, Soro is actually located in an erstwhile soda factory, making it the ideal place to down or drown your sorrows.

“Where next”, asked Savio at Coco Shambhala, a tropical haven near Coco Beach where we had come to experience their new Forest Essentials massages. “Cantare in Saligao, LPK (Love Passion Karma) in Nerul or Cohiba near Aguada?” “No more”, we gasped. “Don’t worry. ‘Soro jivak boro’ (Alcohol is good for life). As the therapist confirmed our appointment, we cracked up when she said “I hope you have come on an empty stomach.”

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FACT FILE

Where to Stay

Birdsong
497, Calzor, Moira
Ph +91-9987962519, 9810307012, 9587508222 www.birdsonggoa.com

Ahilya by the Sea
Coco Maia, 787, Nerul-Reis Magos Road, Nerul
Ph 011-41551575 www.ahilyabythesea.com

Coco Shambhala
Nerul, Bardez
Ph +91 9372267182 www.cocoshambhala.com

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The Secret Garden
Estrela e Sinos, Saligao
Ph +91-95525 18664

Lar Amorosa Boutique B&B
House No. 68, Barros Waddo, Sangolda, Bardez
Ph: +91 7888047029 www.laramorosa.com

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Where to Drink/Eat

Elevar Beach Bar & Restaurant
Leela Cottages Beach Front, Ashvem, Morjim Road, Mandrem
Ph: +91 9130352188 www.facebook.com/elevarashvem

Go With The Flow
House No. 614, Calangute Baga
Ph: +91 7507771556, +91 7507771557 www.gowiththeflowgoa.com

Soro The Village Pub
Assagao Baddem Junction, Goa
Ph: +91 9881934440, 9881904449
Wed-Jazz, Fri-Rock, Sat-Ladies night www.facebook.com/SoroGoa

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Bomras
Souza Vaddo, Candolim, Bardez
Ph: +91 9767591056 www.bomras.com

Thalassa Greek Taverna
Mariketty’s Place, Small Vagator, Ozran
Ph: +91 9850033537 www.thalassagoa.com

Antares
Small Vagator, Ozran, Vagator
Ph: +91 7350011538, +91 7350011528 www.antaresgoa.com

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Baba au Rhum
French Café, Bakery, Pizzeria
Anjuna, Goa
Ph: +91 9822866366

Gunpowder/People Tree
6, Assagao, Cursino Villa, Saunta Vaddo, Bardez
Ph: 0832 2268228 www.peopletreeonline.com

Mustard Restaurant/Freedom Tree Store
House No. 78, Mae Dey Deus Vaddo, Chogm Road, Sangolda
www.facebook.com/mustardgoa

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What to See/Do 

Museum of Goa
Pilerne Industrial Estate, Pilerne, Bardez
Director: Dr Subodh Kerkar Ph: +91 9326119324
Email museumofgoa@gmail.com www.museumofgoa.com

Houses of Goa Museum and Mario Gallery
Near Nisha’s Play School, Torda, Salvador do Mundo, Bardez, Goa 403101
Ph: 0832-2410711 www.archgoa.org

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine. http://beta.outlooktraveller.com/trips/goa-with-the-flow-1009179

Wonderful Wernigerode

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PRIYA GANAPATHY goes for a walk in a beautiful painted German town in the Harz region to discover its captivating history, architecture and legends

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On a chilly winter morning I stepped out of HKK Wernigerode Hotel to explore the town of old brick buildings, stone-grey churches and half-timbered houses painted in myriad colours. Time had almost stood still in this town in Germany’s Harz district, renowned for its ancient Christmas markets and witch festivals. At the Marktplatz (Marketplace), I was treated to the loveliest homes and hotels I’d ever laid my eyes on. Wernigerode is defined by its idiosyncratic architectural style. Poet Hermann Lӧns called it “Bunte Stadt am Harz” or “the colourful painted town in the Harz foothills”.

Apparently, places in Germany suffixed with ‘rode’ indicate forests cleared of trees for tilling. The old city of Wernigerode was founded during the Great Clearings, nearly 1100 years ago by monks from a neighbouring district. They set up a chapel and a small castle to spread the faith in the Harz region. Locals claim the city was named after the Prior of the monastery. With abundant wood and rich mineral ores like gold, silver, copper and iron, the region saw quick growth in craft and trade. Most houses in Wernigerode have a half-timbered style and Wernigerode Public Gardens has a miniature section called “Little Harz” with a collection of 50 prominent landmarks in the Harz.

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The canary-coloured Bimmelbahn, named after the tinkling ‘bimmeln’ sound made by the toy train, trundled cheerily along the narrow cobbled street, ascending to Wernigerode Schloss, the town’s most popular sight. Looming above the city, the castle is a 1.5km hike from the marketplace. The only other access is by foot or horse-drawn carriages, adding to its old world charm.

The fairytale castle blends neo-Baroque and neo-Gothic styles. Fronted by a sprawling garden, it commands a fabulous cityscape of red-roofed buildings punctuated by arrowheads of church spires. In the inner courtyard stone sculptures of griffins and fierce gothic animals guarded wide steps and stone walls riddled with creepers and vines.

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A model of the original 12th Century castle, a former hunting lodge for German royals, is on display. The lavish interiors flaunt exquisite red and blue silk damask wall panels, monogrammed motifs, parquet floors, hunting trophies and gilded portraits. The grand Festaal (banquet hall) decorated with the stag crest of the House of Stolberg-Wernigerode spells out the opulence enjoyed by Kaisers and Dukes.

We noticed a raised deck with a special door. Back in the day, guests had to wear a special hat and thick cape called the ‘smoking jacket’ before entering the smoking lounge. This ensured they didn’t stink up the place with the odour of tobacco smoke clinging to their clothes. In 1950, the castle was refurbished into a museum and opened to public. Its unusual treasures include gifts, silverware, traditional dishes, recipes, menus and a book compiled by the French chef of the Stolberg family.

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Wernigerode’s fascinating history came alive during the guided city walk with the genial Werner Kropf. Goethe, who wrote the classic “Faust” came here in 1777 at the age of 28 to study mining in the Harz. Mining’s loss was music’s gain! Till 1870 it was a small town of 6000 inhabitants and after the foundation of the German Reich, it saw great development. One of the factories that opened in the 1800s was Hasserӧder, the largest and most famous brewery in Germany, which still exists. They produce beer that Germans swear by – about 1million litres per day! In 1899, the railway network through 140km of the Harz mountains to the highest point Brocken, was completed.

Despite several fires, few Baroque style homes managed to survive and are comparatively prettier than the simpler new homes. But what the latter miss out in ornamentation, is made up for in colour. Perhaps the cutest house was Kleinstes Haus, Wernigerode’s smallest house which belonged to postal worker Mr Nettelmann. Wedged between two houses (they skipped building the side walls!), the home built in 1792 is just 3m wide with two rooms, a small hall and kitchen! In 1900, it still managed to house a family of ten. Today the heritage house has been converted into a museum.

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Many houses are over 500 years old and retain remnants of Renaissance period artwork and woodwork with large overhangs, paintings and carvings. We saw a wonky house with a clever signboard in German nailed to its wall “There are not so many days in the year as there the number of years of this house!” Dating back to 1597, it stood crooked because the foundation was damaged by the flooding rains. Art, humour and beauty came together in these lanes.

We halted at the unusual Museum Schiefes Haus, formerly a water-powered mill built in Baroque style in 1680. It was built straight but today leans forward, earning fame as the Crooked Mill in town. Apparently its foundations too, eroded over the centuries as the little brook flowing alongside sometimes swelled into a flood. Today, it inclines 130cm, making it more tilted than the Leaning Tower of Pisa! It features models of mills inside. Its slope is so sharp it’s difficult to balance, like you would on a ship in the high seas. A landscaped Floral Watch designed in 1974 stands nearby.

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Wernigerode’s historic Rathaus or Town Hall in the heart of town was originally built in 1277 as a Spielhaus (playhouse). People gathered here to meet and have beer, play cards every evening, watch theatre or celebrate a wedding. When Wernigerode became a town, they declared it a Marktplatz.

As it prospered, the administration decided on a makeover for the Rathaus in 1936. They invited a young 27-year-old architect brimming with new ideas from his wanderings around Germany to decorate the building. He moved the oriels lying around in a corner for centuries to the roof and added two oriel towers.

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This stunning highlight became a signature of Wernigerode. Sitting pretty in shades of burnt orange, its Mayor Oriel windows (the Mayor’s office lies behind it) frilled by garden plants, the Rathaus is touted as the most beautiful Town Hall between the Atlantic Sea and the Ural Mountains. The inside story is that the administration short-changed the architect on his fee. So, he avenged it by ordering his craftsman to chisel images in the likeness of the administrators to publicly lampoon them. Enraged, they didn’t give him another project!

The building’s façade is beautiful with sculptural embellishments and the figures details even their costume and expression! One figure highlighted the typical attire of a farmer’s wife, another depicted a lumberjack with his axe. A row of wooden sculptures highlight the professions of the time – butcher, farmer, baker, miner, sweeper, the sixth was the artist himself, a carpenter, metalsmith, builder, potter, painter and a gunsmith.

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The centrepiece is the gilded and tiered Benefactor’s Fountain, built in honour of those who rendered exemplary service and contributed to local welfare. Many of the town’s buildings have been renovated into restaurants. The magnificent Gothic Haus built in 1440 was converted into a heritage hotel and restaurant in mid 19th century and was transformed into a 4-star hotel in 1992.

Another timbered heritage hotel Weisser Hirsch or The White Deer, stands opposite the fountain. With 70 restaurants, hotels and cafés, the town is a popular holiday spot. Though Wernigerode is relatively small, it receives an astonishing 3 million visitors a year, of which a million stay at least one night!

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Dampfladen (Steam Shop) stocks steam train souvenirs. The quirky 135-year-old bookshop Juttner’s Buchhandlung has 18 heavy bells hanging outside that chime everyday at five minutes past 12, 3 and 5pm in traditional folk tunes! Nearby, a metal sculpture of an owl and a hanging book highlight it as treasure-trove of wisdom.

Café Wein on Breite Strasse, the long pedestrian-only street, has a chocolate façade laced with pink flowers in its windows that made it look good enough to eat! Built in 1583 as a Renaissance style building, it has been run as a Viennese style café since 1898. The present owner Mrs Zeigermont is a gracious octogenarian who welcomes all her visitors personally. Her cakes are to die for!

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The second marketplace of Wernigerode was also a venue for Walpurgisnacht, the night dedicated to the Witches of Brocken. Every year between 30th April and 1st May, thousands gather here dressed like witches and wizards. Marked by binge drinking, all night dancing and loud music, the festival marks the end of winter and celebrates the onset of spring. We could almost hear the Witches of Brocken Hill cackling and cheering us on for a cold night of revelry.

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FACT FILE

Getting there: Fly to Hanover (130km) and take a train to Wernigerode (2.5 hrs) by the German Federal Railways (Deutsche Bahn) and ‘Veolia’ Transport trains.

When to Go: Wernigerode has a busy calendar with the Town Hall Festival in mid-June and a Wine Festival in June end. The Chocolate Festival began two years ago and takes place in end October. The centuries old Christmas Market begins on 1st December and goes on till Christmas.

For more details, visit www.wernigerode-tourismus.com/ and www.germany.travel

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Author: Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Imperia magazine.

The globe on a platter: Melbourne cuisine

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Cuisines from around the world as well as a menu of native dishes converge on Melbourne’s infinity platter, writes ANURAG MALLICK

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“No, not an Indian restaurant! We want to eat local,” we implored, walking down the graffiti-lined ACDC Lane, wondering just what we were doing in a dark Melbourne alley. Despite our guide Tony Polletto’s reassurances about Tonka’s rave reviews, the backdoor entry didn’t do wonders to our confidence. But, by the time we finished with chef Adam D’Sylva’s ‘gourmet Indian restaurant with a twist’, we were eating more than our words.

Named after Honkytonk, an earlier establishment at the same place, Tonka’s food can be best described as… honkytonk. The incredulous menu seemed like the handiwork of some mad scientist in a lab. Fremantle octopus, rasam, vermicelli upma, pickled papaya! Port Phillip Bay scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, Kashmiri chilli and chana dal chutney! Smoked corn-fed chicken betel leaf with garlic chutney, pomelo and sweet papaya pickle! Chicken liver parfait, honeycomb, spiced peanuts and charred pav! And these were just the starters.

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It was irreverent, daring our taste buds to go where they had never gone before… The delectable spanner crab salad with puffed rice, green mango, peanuts, coriander and green chilli was basically a crab bhel. For mains we had rotis, Avani’s lamb curry, Duck korma and barely had space for Tonka’s gulab jamun with saffron syrup and silver leaf.

Over the last few decades Melbourne has emerged as an exciting and innovative food and drink destination. Be it street food, fine dining, a quick coffee, cool places to grab a drink after work or a specialty dinner, there’s astonishing variety in Melbourne. Hell, you could even have a three course meal on the world’s first travelling tramcar restaurant. The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant with its conspicuous burgundy boxcars moving about the city is a great way to enjoy the sights and bites.

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One big contributing factor for the city’s exciting cuisine is its ethnic diversity. A Greek Precinct, Little Italy, Chinatown and its own Little Vietnam; Melbourne has it all. The city’s multi-cultural mix started with the 1850s Victorian gold rush attracting Chinese prospectors and immigrants in droves. Melbourne’s Chinatown, centered around Little Bourke Street between Swanston Street and Spring Street, is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world and the Southern Hemisphere. The neon lit avenue has top restaurants like Dahu Peking Duck, Hutong Dumpling Restaurant and the Flower Drum, hailed as the best Chinese restaurant in Australia.

Melbourne also has the largest Greek population in the world outside of Greece and much of the migration happened after the Second World War. The Greek Precinct, adjacent to Chinatown on Little Bourke Street, is abuzz with eateries like Tsindos, Kalamaki and Stalactites, one of the city’s oldest restaurants. We headed to celebrity chef and Masterchef Australia judge George Calombaris’ restaurant Gazi. Named after a food quarter in Athens, it offers Ethnika Vromika or ‘Hellenic dirty food’ – hawker style tastes in a plush setting.

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Greeted with ‘Kalispera’, Greek for ‘good evening,’ we sat under a ceiling dominated by 3000 inverted terracotta pots. Opposite the kitchen two open suitcases hung on the wall; the names and date are of George Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother and the year they migrated from Greece to Australia. Instead of the 10-course $69 tasting menu called ‘Doing It Greek Style’, we tried all the dips with our pita basket – tzatziki, melitzanosalata (eggplant), cauliflower and beetroot besides the finest souvlaki in town.

The royal blue plates bore a huge eye in the centre and we learnt that what we had been calling Turkish evil eye was actually a 6th century BC Greek symbol called mati that once appeared on drinking vessels.

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Between the gold mining boom and two world wars, many Italians too moved to Australia. They brought with them the culture of coffee and cafés. The stretch of Lygon Street between the intersections of Elgin and Queensberry streets in the suburb of Carlton is known as Little Italy. The Lygon Street Festa every November is one of Australia’s largest outdoor street festivals and celebrates Melbourne’s vibrant Italian culture and cuisine. Toto’s Pizza House here was the first pizzeria established in Australia.

One of the earliest cafes in town, Pellegrini’s on Bourke Street began in 1912 and has been serving the same blend of Vittoria beans for the last 60 years. However, Melbourne’s café scene exploded only in the 50s, owing largely due to the piston-driven espresso machine invented by Achille Gaggia in 1945 and the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. We dropped by at the troika of Italian establishments on Bourke Street run by Guy Grossi serving coffee, wine and antipasti. The Cellar Bar was a typical Italian bar while Grossi and Florentino had quintessential Italian fare.

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Besides reinterpreting cuisines from around the world, Melbourne’s uniqueness lies in transforming unused spaces into fashionable dining venues. The tiny switchboard room where the controls of the Manchester Unity Building were housed was reinvented into the Switchboard Café. Center Place, once a seedy bylane between Majorca building and Center House where hawkers sold stamps and coins is today a European style, lamp-lit alley with outdoor dining. When the General Post Office shut down, the Postal Lane for delivery trucks was converted into a clutch of restaurants, still bearing signs like ‘Beware of Motor Cars’!

Housed in a brick building at the corner of Exhibition and Little Lonsdale streets, Trunk was built in 1859 as the Mickveh Yisrael synagogue and Hebrew School. It later became a state school, social welfare and child care centre, Salvation Army labour bureau, creche and eventually an Italian restaurant in 1980. Taking its name from a 150-year-old heritage listed Coral Tree, Trunk has one of the largest courtyards in CBD. Their pizzas and seafood risotto paired well with excellent Victorian wine. Staying at Citadines on Bourke Street, we were well located in Melbourne’s Central Business District.

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The hotel had an excellent French-Japanese restaurant downstairs with a sake bar called Heirloom. Every morning, the orange juice and fried breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, toast and coffee had become a ritual. Another Melbourne tradition is Koko Black hot chocolate, blended and brewed over two hours to achieve its signature smooth velvety texture.

Be it Mocha, Hazelnut or Orange, each drink comes with a recommended chocolate pairing – Chilli hot chocolate with caramelized coconut, Classical Belgian with salted caramel dark praline and Cinnamon with raspberry purée praline. After a pitstop at their Royal Arcade outlet on a Melbourne Secrets walking tour, we encountered them again at the Dairy Hall in Queen Victoria Market.

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Started in 1878 and spread over 17 acres, Melbourne’s much loved ‘Vic’ Market is the oldest and largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Land up on an empty stomach for the 2-hour Hunt & Gather Food Tour ($49). Our eager guide Mandy Ho started off from the oldest building the Meat Hall lined with butcher shops.

At Seafood & Oyster Spot, the livewire fishmonger Yianni almost force fed us fresh oysters. At the Art Deco Dairy Hall, we tried peppered kangaroo, kilishi (West African style beef jerky) at Tribal Tastes, cheese at Curds & Whey, Rooftop honey and stuffed olives and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) at Hellenic Deli. From bratwurst (German sausage) to börek (Turkish baked filled pastries), Melbourne offers the globe on a platter…

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Like alchemists, Gewürzhaus mixes various herbs, spices, sugars and salts from around the world for their artisan spice blends. Drawn by the tantalizing aroma of spices in the air, we took whiffs of Australian Bush herbs to Black Lava salt from Cyprus.

Flying back from Melbourne on Singapore Airlines, instead of using the regular salt pepper sachet I pulled out the recently procured black truffle salt for my cheese and crackers. The flight attendant was curious. “Your own secret spice blend, Sir?” “No”, I smiled back, “It’s a pinch of Australia.”

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FACT FILE

Getting there
Fly from India to Melbourne (13½ hrs) via Singapore on Singapore Airlines – 4½ hrs to Changi Airport Singapore and 7½ hrs to Melbourne.

Where to Stay
Citadines on Bourke Street
131-135, Bourke Street, Melbourne Ph +61 3 9039 8888 www.sitadines.com.au

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Where to Eat
Trunk
: 275 Exhibition Street Ph +61 3 9663 7994 www.trunktown.com.au
Heirloom: 131 Bourke Street Ph +61 3 9639 1296
The Cellar Bar: 80 Bourke Street Ph +61 3 9662 1811 www.grossiflorentino.com
Gazi: 2 Exhibition Street Ph +61 3 9207 7444 www.gazirestaurant.com.au
Tonka: 20 Duckboard Place Ph +61 3 9650 3155 www.tonkarestaurant.com.au
Queen Victoria Market (Closed Mon & Wed) Ph (03) 9320 5835 www.qvm.com.au/tours

For more info, visit http://www.australia.com, http://www.tourism.vic.gov.au or visitmelbourne.com

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared on 20 November 2016 in Sunday Herald newspaper.