After discovering Delhi and our first steps in India, we were heading to Amritsar, the religious capital and the most important place of pilgrimage of the Sikh.
We have read about the golden temple before and were amazed by the pictures we saw, so we decided, that this is a place on our must see list for India.
The best way to get from Delhi to Amritsar is either by plane or by train. As the plane was too expensive, we decided to take on another adventure, a 6,5h Indian train ride. Booking train tickets in India has potential to tickle your nerves and create some stress, but this is another story.
We, the unprepared tourists, bought water and snacks to survive the long train ride. Little did we know that the six hour train ride would be accompanied by a 5 course meal with complimentary water and tea. And when I say meal, I mean starters, intermediate course, main course, snacks with tea and of course dessert. The train was comfortable and the food excellent – we almost didn’t notice how the time flew by.
We arrived very late in Amritsar and got the immediate attention of the tuk tuk and taxi drivers, who ran in our direction once they saw us. The tuk tuk brought us to a dark, not well lit street, where we had to wake up the guys, who were sleeping on the floor at the reception of our hotel.
Well, room is a very nice word for it. It was a shoe box with no windows and a leaky shower. Additionally to that they started playing music in the hallway which could be heard from every room as the walls were paper thin. HA… little did they know that everybody would hear Michael’s snoring… hehehe. J But the cherry on top of the cake was that we, when we booked this hotel, we did miss the train tracks which were running under the hotel… Every time a train came the hotel shook and you were woken by the train noise. Good that we brought some earplugs with us! This is an essential to either survive Michael’s snoring or the train noise. 😉
After the long day we just wanted to sleep, but the bed was dirty and filthy so we used our silk inlays for the first time and our sweatshirts as a head rest and tried to sleep in the shoe box. We managed to book ourselves another Airbnb for the next night as we did not want to stay another second in this hotel. In the next morning we woke up early from a more or less sleepless night and left this horrid place.
We were heartily welcomed by Rajdeep in his cozy Airbnb close to the Golden Temple with an excellent view on Jallianwala Bagh opposite from the Airbnb. Rajdeep showed us our floor and the two rooms we could occupy if we wanted and made us some breakfast. After that he gave us recommendations to where to go, what to see and how much it would cost. One of the attractions offered in Amritsar is a military parade at the border between India and Pakistan, when asked how to book a ride Rajdeep said “They’ll find you” and he was sooo right 😀 We decided to visit the Golden Temple first and to see the Wagah border ceremony in the afternoon.
Unlike Delhi, the city center of Amritsar can only be entered by electric vehicles and the very core is just a pedestrian zone. This leads to a much lower number of people trying to sell something or offering services to one and a more relaxed atmosphere. However, the hordes of people mumbling “wagahbodah wagabodah wagabodaah” were not to miss. So we picked one of them, who looked trust-worthy and booked the ride for the afternoon. Before that, we still had enough time to visit the golden temple, which is not only surprisingly well organized, but also respected by the local dealers. This means, once you’re inside the temple area, no one bugs you and you can enjoy the glory and beauty of the temple.
All buildings surrounding the temple are white with beautiful domes, but what draws your attention is the golden temple in the middle of an artificial lake (the holy river filled with nectar of immortality). The behavior of the people and the chanting prayers sounding from the boxes let one feel the importance of this place and see, how deep the beliefs of those people are. The only other place, where we saw something similar is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was also interesting to experience, that although we are obviously not Sikhs, we were totally welcomed and people even stopped to explain different artifacts to us, the friendliness and calmness of this place was just stunning.
After this inspirational visit, we went on to our contrast program – the wagah border. It is a 35 km ride to the border, which we took in an overfilled minibus. Once there, we read “Lahore – 25 km” on the road signs – just one day after a bombing in Lahore, this gave us some goose bumps and made us feel a little uneasy. The ceremony was in fact a funny mixture of a party and a military parade. Border soldiers on both sides wear “funny”/old-fashioned uniforms and beards and perform some kind of a dance demonstrating their rivalry and brotherhood at the same time. Especially locals get very excited and see it as their patriotic duty to support their soldiers by screaming and waving the flag. There is a stadium-like structure on the Indian side of the border to fit the huge numbers of visitors every day (!!!).
In the evening, we just had to go back to the golden temple and enjoy the atmosphere again. Even though tripods were not allowed inside (once again!!!), we managed to get some stunning shots. When we were almost on our way out, we spotted a really well-dressed couple and asked them, if we can take a picture of them. It turned out, that they just married on that day and came all the way from Australia to get married in Amritsar, so we promised to send them the pictures as a wedding gift. Another guy, who talked to the couple before, asked us, if he can have a picture with us, which resulted in him inviting us to the golden temple and explaining the ceremonies inside – so this is how we got to see, how the temple gets cleaned in the evening and all artifacts get packed for the night – as the only westerners 🙂