Kerala diaries 5: Exploring Fort Kochi and Mattancherry

The OH and I have had the opportunity to explore Ernakulam a few years ago, but we could make only a flying visit to Fort Kochi then. We were captivated by what little of Fort Kochi that we saw then, and wanted to come back and explore more. So, when we were planning the itinerary for our Kerala trip this year, we ensured that we stayed a couple of days in Fort Kochi. It was definitely worth the stay!

Fort Kochi

I would say Fort Kochi has two distinct sides to it – the steeped-in-history side and the quirky, contemporary side – just like Pondicherry. I felt the same vibes here that I felt in Pondicherry. Like Pondicherry, Fort Kochi is best explored on foot too, so that you can turn into any enticing lane or enter any exciting cafe, as the mood takes you.

Wikipedia tells me that Fort Kochi was given to the Portuguese by the then king of Kochi in the year 1503. The Dutch held Fort Kochi for over 100 years, till 1795, after which the Britishers took control of it. Fort Kochi was released of foreign control in the year 1947, with the independence of India. Consequently, both Portuguese and British influences are very much evident in Fort Kochi, particularly in the architectural styles here.

I loved watching these quaint doors and windows!

There are a number of heritage homes in Fort Kochi that have been converted into homestays and inns, giving the place its steeped-in-history feel. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful old houses, which have great character. The next time I visit Fort Kochi, I am going to make sure I stay in one such house.

A heritage home converted into a hotel

Just walking through the streets of Fort Kochi is a treat in itself, thanks to the quirky decorations of the cafes and the beautiful buildings. Opportunities for photography are many.

The ivy-covered building of the Raintree Lodge

Fort Kochi today is home to a number of cafes, most of them contemporary and eccentric. For instance, the popular Kashi Art Cafe which serves some of the best cakes and pies I have ever had, at the same time providing artists with a place to exhibit their wares. Do not miss Kashi Cafe whenever you are in Fort Kochi, I beg you. If they have date and walnut cake on the day you visit, grab a slice without hesitation. And you already know how much I love their chocolate cake – that delectable, sinful confection.

Also worth a mention here is Upstairs Restaurant, where we had lunch twice. We loved the fresh, fresh, fresh home-made pizza and pasta that they served us. It is a bit pricey, but the food is totally worth it.

I loved the name of this cafe!

Fort Kochi is also home to the famous Teapot Cafe, a tranquil place to introspect, read, write, have a conversation or take photographs as you sip on a cup of tea. I was desperate to visit it but, unfortunately, could not. The cafe was closed because it was off season, and there were absolutely no tourists. Well, there is always a next time!

Fort Kochi is a place that takes art seriously, and believes in respecting its artists. You see art everywhere, in cafes and B&Bs as well as on the streets.

There are loads of wall paintings in Fort Kochi, but this particular one stayed with me
An art exhibit that I loved at Kashi Cafe

Then, there is the beach at Fort Kochi. The beach lover that I am, I loved wandering through this part of Fort Kochi. There is something immensely calming about sitting on a lonely bench by the beach side, watching the water change colour as the sun’s rays reflect on and off it. The beach here is not very neat, but I loved being by the water, nevertheless.

By the beach in Fort Kochi

The Chinese fishing nets here are a popular tourist attraction, apparently one of the most photographed sights in Kerala. Why shouldn’t they be? They are a sight to watch, indeed. These nets, earlier believed to have been introduced by a Chinese explorer, work on a cantilever system. We did not get to see these nets actually being used for fishing, though.

Chinese fishing nets

It is oh-so-wonderful a feeling to watch the ships go by in the sea at Fort Kochi. It takes you long, long, long back in time, and makes you think of explorers, voyages, discovering lost lands, pirates and hidden treasures.

A girl watching a ship pass by at Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi has some of the oldest and most beautiful churches I have ever seen. We were not able to explore them, due to shortage of time. We were able to visit only one church – the Santa Cruz Basilica, a lovely old church that I instantly fell in love with.

The main entrance to the Santa Cruz Basilica
Pretty stained glass windows inside the Basilica
The beautiful interior of the Basilica – doesn’t it take you back in time?

Mattancherry

Adjacent to Fort Kochi is Mattancherry, where we spent an afternoon, exploring Jew Town and the Dutch Palace and Museum.

There were a significant number of Jews in Kochi once, of which only a few remain now. They inhabit the part of Kochi called Jew Town, in Mattancherry, home to spice shops, antique shops, souvenir shops, cafes and the famous Jewish synagogue. Walking through this part of town is something I really love doing, peering into the antique shops and taking in the smells of fresh spices. I have never attempted buying anything from here, though – the prices are way too steep for me! However, it is a very interesting place to walk around, irrespective of whether you shop or not.

An antiques shop in Jew Town
Kathakali masks for sale in a shop in Jew Town

The Jewish synagogue, popularly called the Paradesi Synagogue, is gorgeous beyond words. It was constructed in 1568, and is one of the oldest synagogues to be still in use. Photography inside the synagogue is not permitted, so I have no pictures of it to show.

Near the synagogue is the Dutch Palace and Museum, which had me entranced for hours. It houses palanquins, coins, dresses, swords and utensils from the royal households of the several kings who have ruled Kerala. Again, photography is not allowed inside the palace.

There is a small Police Museum too in Jew Town, with statues depicting the uniforms and arms that have been used by the policemen of Kerala over time. We spent a pleasant half-hour here, gawping at the dresses.

Statue at the Police Museum, Jew Town

Tourism brochures, websites and blogs tell you that a couple of days are enough to explore these parts of Kerala, but those instructions are clearly not for us. We still have a lot to do, see, feel, eat and explore in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.

****************************

Have you read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of this travelogue?

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Kerala diaries 5: Exploring Fort Kochi and Mattancherry

  1. Love this post. Rereading it cos I am taking my mom there next month (she grew up in ernakulam) and would love to visit fort kochi. Jew town seems very very interesting!

    Like

  2. I visited all Cochin in 1997 as part of a hop-on, hop off train and road trip from Mumbai to Trivandram with a friend. Reading your post brought back a lot of memories of exploring Fort Kochi and Mattanchery and wandering about here and there. Thanks TGND for this sensory tour πŸ™‚

    Like

  3. Have to go, have to go, have to go here! Lovely travelogue – you are taking us through this so beautifully!

    I loved the interior of the Basilica and would love to be taken back in time. is always so obsessed with Kerala, you know. This time, I had to seriously keep him off it else I won’t get enough time to spend with family. Selfish, I know πŸ˜›

    So much to see in India. I wonder what I did all these years. Sigh!

    Like

  4. Beautiful! I should add all those places on my “to visit” list. I adore quaint old cafes. And I’m a visual creature, so the beauty of a place matters to me. These places look perfect πŸ™‚ What about the crowds, were there any?

    Like

    1. @Vivienne

      You’ll definitely love Fort Kochi then. Go for it! πŸ™‚

      We visited during the off season, so there were really no crowds. We were not able to visit the famous Teapot Cafe, too, as it was closed due to the lack of tourists. 😦 If you go in the tourist season, I think it begins September onwards, there will be loads of crowds.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s