22 Dec - 31 Dec 2014 Agra

The Zenith of Mughal Architecture… 
Matt: Holding my breath in front of the world's most beautiful building, the stunning Taj Mahal, a monument to romantic love, "...a teardrop on the face of eternity..." (according to Rabindranath Tagore) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under threat from pollution, and hyperventilating in the narrow streets of Agra's Kinari Bazaar, a fascinating warren crammed full with shops and stalls.

"Marble, I perceive, covers a multitude of sins.” 
(Aldous Huxley)

Matt: Shelling out the pricey admission of INR 750.- or US$ 12.20 only per person for non-Indian nationals only (INR 10.- or US$ 0.20 only per person for Indians only), reverting back into the 17th century CE only and admiring: (i) the famous Taj Mahal's distinctly Islamic layout which represents the Koreanic hallucinations of paradise, where rivers allegedly flow with water, milk, wine and honey, (ii) its expensive building materials, such as marble from Rajasthan, semi-precious stones (onyx, amethyst, lapis lazuli, turquoise, jade) from Persia, Russia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China, and corals and mother-of-pearl from the Indian Ocean, and (iii) its sophisticated blueprint where the minarets were deliberately constructed leaning slightly outwards in order to counteract an optical illusion which would have made them appear to lean inwards when seen from ground level if they were exactly vertical.

"So, so you think you can tell heaven from hell, blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

...wish you were here." 
(Roger Waters)

Matt: Estimating the distance between the Taj Mahal and Bollywood as about 1,200 km only, or just the blink of an eye!

Matt: Noticing the fact that the curved Agra Fort, a majestic 16th century citadel (admission: INR 250.- or US$ 3.90 per person for non-Indian nationals, INR 10.- or US$ 0.20 per person for Indians), was built in the form of a half moon, and exploring the royal pavilions, great courtyards and huge palaces inside the high red-sandstone ramparts which dominate a bend in the Yamuna River c. 2 km northwest of the Taj Mahal.

Matt: Setting up shop in Baluganj's well-run Tourists Rest House +915622463961 (only a short cycle-rickshaw ride away from the Taj Mahal: INR 30.- per ride, one way), doing a recce in this rough and distinctively blue-collar neighbourhood (where monkeys, cows, dogs, rats and Indians of all shades happily coexist), making friends with the locals ("What is your good name, Seirrr?" - "Matt." - "It is nice knowing you, Matt ji!"), marking my territory and celebrating a lonely but Merry Winter Solstice: (i) excellent "unlimited" veg-thali with tandoor roti for INR 90.- or US$ 1.40 per bottomless plate at the friendly enough Garden Restaurant, (ii) cold and glycerine-flavoured Kingfisher Premium Lager (4.8 % alc./vol.) for INR 116.- or US$ 1.85 per large 650-ml bottle from the "fully air-conditioned permit room" of the nearby Bengali Lodge, (iii) spicy vegetable chow mein from Israr's enthusiastic Chomein & Egg Coener, and innumerous teas from chai wallahs who serve masala chais and nothing else for just INR 5.- per small cup. 

Matt: Doing the needful, exploring the crowded, chaotic and noisy streets of Kinari Bazaar around the base of the soaring red-sandstone Friday Mosque aka Jama Masjid, feasting on seasonal Indian fruits (chiku for INR 40.- per kg, guavas for INR 50.- per kg, ground cherries aka ras bhari for INR 10.- per bundle; all introduced from the Americas many, many years ago) and having many truly refreshing encounters with local noisemakers of all sorts.

"If you've got a problem, take it out on a drum." 

Matt: Taking one of Agra's many ecologically sustainable cycle rickshaws from my hotel, the recommendable Tourists Rest House +915622463961, through thick winter smog to the city's busy but well-organised Cantonment Railway Station (c. 4 km, ½ hour, INR 40.- or US$ 0.45 for the ride), hereafter the delayed Goa Express train no. 12,780 in sleeper class to South Goa's Margao aka Madgaon Railway Station (1,986 km, 41 hours, INR 470.- or US$ 7.40 per senior citizen), thus crossing more than 10 parallels and moving from Northern India's brass monkey weather ("kashl, kashl") into Goa's pleasant warmth ("yippee"), taking hereafter a city bus from the Margao aka Madgaon Railway Station to Margao's Kadamba Bus Stand (c. 5 km, ½ hour, INR 10.- per person) and a regional bus from Margao's Kadamba Bus Stand to Maria Hall corner (c. 5 km, ½ hour, INR 10.-), a 5min-walk away from my fully furnished one-bedroom apartment at Sandra & John's comfortable Flavia's Nest in Benaulim: warm sunshine, sinning Catholics and cheap booze; hurray!

In Indien habe ich mir das beruehmte Taj Mahal, Agra's Kronenpalast, einen ganzen Tag lang angeschaut; sicherlich eines der schoensten Bauwerke der Welt. Schoen und praechtig nicht nur wegen der benutzten Baumaterialien, wie dem kostbaren Marmor, der aus verschiedenen Teilen Asiens mit 1,000 Elefanten herangeschafft und zusaetzlich noch mit vielen Edelsteinen verziert wurde. Sondern auch noch wegen erwas ganz anderem.
Als ich mir naemlich die vier Minarette angesehen haben, ist mir aufgefallen, dass die Baumeister bereits vor 400 Jahren einen Trick angewandt haben, damit das Taj Mahal so harmonisch und ausbalanciert aussieht, wie Ihr auf dem Foto oben erkennen koennt. Die Minarette wurden naemlich nicht wie der CN Tower [1], [2] ganz genau senkrecht und kerzengerade erbaut, sondern absichtlich schief, so als wuerden sie in jedem Moment nach aussen kippen wollen. Keine Bange, sie stehen trotzdem sehr fest.
Wozu haben die Baumeister das getan? Um eine optische Taeuschung auszugleichen!
Unser scharfes Auge ist zwar meistens recht verlaesslich, manchmal jedoch haelt es uns auch ein bissel zum Narren. Beispielsweise dann, wenn es uns glauben laesst, dass die Erde eine flache Scheibe sei, obwohl doch vieles dafuer spricht, dass unser Planet eher einer grossen Kugel aehnelt. Oder dann, wenn Sonne und Mond am Horizont viel groesser erscheinen als bei groesserer Hoehe am Firmament, obwohl es dafuer nun wirklich keinen astronomischen Grund gibt. Oder bei der Mueller-Lyer-Taeuschung und bei der Kitaoka-Taeuschung, wo Eure Augen bei der Laengenschaetzung und bei der Parallelwahrnehmung ganz tuechtig veralbert werden:

Die alten Baumeister wussten so etwas ganz genau und haben deshalb die Minarette absichtlich schief gebaut, so dass diese vor 400 Jahren auf der Netzhaut der Augen des Grossmoguls und 400 Jahre spaeter auf dem Sensor meiner Kamera genau senkrecht stehen und damit hochfein und harmonisch wirken:

Einmal wieder trifft zu, dass die Landkarte nicht die Landschaft ist, und dass diese Welt ein ganz wunderbares und interessantes Phantasiegebilde und Luegengebaeude ist. - Welche optischen Taeuschungen kennt Ihr ... im Reich der Tiere?
From India, with Love!

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