Fort Kochi

Every traveler knows that one place amongst the many known places that frisk them away to another world several hundred years back. Fort Kochi is a perfect example of such location. Nestled between Arabian Sea and Vembanadu Lake; dotted with Chinese Nets along the lake-shore, Fort Kochi is a must-visit-place.

Leave your cars and buses away. Fort Kochi is to be explored on foot. The beach, churches, narrow lanes flanked by shops, synagogue, restaurants that serve hot and spicy foods can be best enjoyed by walk.

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One would end up in the famous Jew Town street invariably. The Jew Town houses the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India.
Even though Jews arrived in Kerala in 700 BC and built a prosperous community in this little town, there are now less than 13 Jewish residents, due to the majority migrating to Israel. One of the prime reasons for the migration and a decline in population is said to be a lack of suitable co-religious marriage partners.

Kochi (previously Cochin)has seen Portuguese, Dutch and British rule, and retains all their legacies. Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese explorer was buried here at St Francis’ Church. The Vasco Square is a cobble-stoned square with old trees providing a cool shade from the tropical sun.

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Dotting the waterfront are the picturesque cantilevered Chinese fishing nets known locally as cheena-vala. Chinese nets are still used to bring ashore a fresh catch of fresh water fish and lively Prawns. The restaurants would prepare the catch you buy in any way you like.

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Although for all through the year, Fort Kochi boasts of its tranquil, laid back life, come Cochin Carnival the streets bursts out with activities. The way Kochi welcomes the New Year has to be seen to be believed.

Fort Kochi and Mattancherry are heritage zones that are eye-catching pieces of well-preserved history, decidedly charming. History is found in every nook and cranny, from the tea bungalows converted into boutique hotels, to the 400-year-old St. Francis Church and the architecturally wonderful Santa Cruz Basilica that changed hands from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the English. The beach in Fort Kochi has hosted the Mahatma.

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The Bazaar Road that connects the adjacent area of the former British Cochin to the trade centre makes for a perfect heritage walk, lined by warehouses, many of them which are over 300 years old! The Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue, and Jew Street, lined with spice and handicraft shops, are a treat. The area, which is home to several migrating communities, has evolved its own cultural mix, found in the temples, mosques, art galleries and cozy cafes that dot this quaint landscape.

From the imposing Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, which can be seen as one arrives from Ernakulam-side to the other end of the long and winding Bazaar Road is Jew Town, home to one of the few remaining synagogues in India (built in 1568) and several antique shops, the whole walk is nothing short of memorable.

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One would end up in the famous Jew Town street invariably. The Jew Town houses the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India. Even though Jews arrived in Kerala in 700 BC and built a prosperous community in this little town, there are now less than 13 Jewish residents, due to the majority migrating to Israel. One of the prime reasons for the migration and a decline in population is said to be a lack of suitable co-religious marriage partners.

More on Jew Street and Mattacherry on the next post…

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