Which chain cafe is the worst

In Colcata (Calcutta), city of the goddess Kali - and other Indian impressions

This text was written by Helmuth Hänsch. At the beginning of 2013 he toured India for a few weeks and I have summarized his lively e-mails to me. He provided them with headings and the result is a highly vivid description of a highly adventurous journey.
Helmuth Hänsch went on his last big trip on August 4th, 2016 at 10 a.m. In his honor I am posting this text here.

At the age of 60 plus you can still travel well and interestingly, even without wellness. - Helmuth Hänsch's trip to India. - January 1 to February 20, 2013, seven weeks.


The first impression of Calcutta, today Kolkata, made me speechless for a while - from the airport "Dum Dum International Airport" on the way to the city - because of the terrible street noise, the much dust and the unusual dirt as well as the many people (14 million in the greater Kolkata / Calcutta area) and thousands of street shops and food stalls. Everywhere people cook outside, also with a campfire on the roadside, next to the speeding buses, all cars always honk (!) From 5 to 12 o'clock in the morning, everyone is running across the streets, as disorganized as chickens, people are sleeping on the sidewalk, too next to the rails of the railway, from my guesthouse "Sona", Lake Road, only 200 m away.

One street down, friends from Düsseldorf, Gaby and Babu, have an apartment. Every year you spend 3 months in Kolkata as well as in a house in the country and have many relatives and friends in the city. Gaby and Babu and their relatives invited me to the theater several times for dance and Indian classical music.

The Indians are surprisingly nice people, always friendly.

My guest house "Sona" (guest house with shower and TV) in South Calcutta on the outskirts of the city center is in Lake Street on the city lake. A group of homeless people have settled in wooden shacks under the nearby Hochstrasse bridge, the women work on the side of the road and rinse pots and plates in a gully with well water until late at night. There is a fountain with a handle all over the streets of Kolkata. There is also washing and bathing, i.e. with a bucket and a tin can. The men of the dishwashers drive trucks, sleep next to them on the street at night on newspaper and watch out that nobody goes to the truck.

There is also a “South Mall” not far away for the rich and the newly rich middle class, similar to the Schadow or Bilker Arcades in Düsseldorf for the modern Indian upper class. There is only admission with policy control and private security and handbag surrender, the rich and the nouveau riche shop in Europe, very expensive as on the "Kö". The children and young people play with their cell phones and eat hamburgers, many are very fat, they have the most modern fashion clothes on, like in Germany or the USA, Bollywood films and lots of advertising are shown on big TVs. The Indian girls want to appear in the film and fall in love romantically and marry richly. Just like with us. There is also an English supermarket and 3 cinemas in the mall, the expensive places are berths, that's where the young lovers hide, because otherwise they can't meet except during the day on the lakeshore in Southpark, where I live and where lots of dogs roam around at night .

This week is a big festival for all of India in the area of ​​the Ganges mouth, where Ganges and Brahmaputra come together in the delta. 100,000 people gathered, some of whom went into the water naked with TV broadcasting. It's 80 km from Kolkata to get there. Yesterday we were in the city in the St. Pauls Cathedrale and in the castle of Queen Victoria (Victoria Memorial), today a museum, she died in 1901. It is a huge marble palace (photo), at that time Kolkata (Calcutta) was the capital until 1911. Kolkata is now the capital of the state of West Bengal.

The name Calcutta (Kolkata today) is derived from Kalikata and means "black gate" or "gate of the goddess Kali". There are no postcards to buy in Kolkata, I looked around a lot until I was recommended the Oxford bookstore on Park Street, which is frequented by tourists from the luxury hotels in the center. There are only a few tourists and the Indians are now also sending their greetings via mobile phones plus photos.

On January 20th, the night train takes us to Benares and Sarnath, from where Buddha spread Buddhism, the religion without gods, 2,500 years ago. After a week I've got used to almost everything, it is bearable because all Indians are very polite. There is enough food here because Bengal is very fertile, a meal costs around 70 rupees, that is 1 euro, 1 bottle of water 15 rupees, bus 10 rupees, taxi 10 km 100 rupees. There are a lot of traffic jams on the streets, the car is slow, there are also rickshaws with a barefoot man or a harnessed bicycle, but only in the side streets.


Here in Kalkota there are very few street cafes, only restaurants and rather unsightly cook stalls. You would then have to go to "Oberoi", famous with 5 stars, there the shoes are looked at first, nobody comes in with slippers or sandals. Nearby in Parkstrasse (the Kö von Calcutta) there is a single bookstore with postcards, although I am curious to see whether they will arrive, because the mailboxes are dusty and hardly recognizable (they arrived). How everything on the streets is so dusty and neglected that I only find it shrill.

There are not many holy cows here in the city, but lots of "holy dogs" that lie around everywhere, belong to no one and that eat rubbish, they are peaceful and are even tolerated in the temple.

There are tons of empty houses or those that look like them, even in the best streets of the city. The reason is - so I hear - English legislation from 100 years ago, according to which everyone can do what they want as an owner, in the event of death, heirs are searched for up to 100 years, as long as everything is empty. There are properties with formerly noble palaces that have been empty for so long that thick trees have grown through the house walls. If someone is in jail, his house remains empty, whether it is a residential or commercial building, regardless of the number of years. Garbage is thrown in front of it, like garbage is everywhere.

There are tons of people on the streets, day and night, who sleep on the sidewalk with a newspaper below and a blanket above. At a large intersection, where the traffic of 5 streets is raging (hell on wheels) stands an approx. 3 year old naked child on the gutter, where the worst traffic I have ever met rushes past at a distance of 1.50 m. Behind them the mother with a wood fire and a saucepan. This can be seen everywhere, even more in the side streets. Although the people are funny and always friendly.

All cars, buses, motorcycles and tuktuks were running around the clock. From my guest house it sounds like in Germany during demonstrations with whistles, only louder. Somehow the Indians have become meshugge. Or always have been.

The Indian President Mukerjkee is coming to visit tomorrow, 100 meters from my guesthouse, it's his old family house, now bamboo barriers are being put up and a few policemen are standing around with guns. That's why I kept a copy of my passport in my pocket in case I was checked.

Right across from the President's house (something like Gauck here), about 5 women with small children sit in the gutter, washing pots and plates from the cookshops and restaurants until late at night. The water comes on a well where you move a handle, the spout is the gully. Next to it are a number of wooden shacks in which the people live, the men work as day-laborers and truck drivers, some sleep on the street. Left and right high garbage piles with ravens sitting on them and picking up plastic bags.

Yesterday we were in our private car on the Ganges, which flows through the city. With a chauffeur, because Gaby and Babu don't dare to drive themselves. Because of traffic jams we needed 1 hour. There is the "Dakshineswar Kali Temple" with a huge crowd of believers and pilgrims. I was allowed to see the goddess, a black figure with a lot of gold and with skulls as a chain around his neck. Kali is popular because she punishes the bad guys. There I got a red dot on my forehead and sacrificed 50 rupees, about 1 euro, which is a lot here. It's dramatic, people scream and cry and shout their wishes, wring their hands and completely out of line. It's like Lourdes, only more pristine. The priests shout: Go on, go on!

Outside is the sacrificial stone, two little black kids were killed, their intestines and heads then lay on the ground. Poor little animals ... Many pilgrims come from distant villages and have been on the road for days, they sleep on the ground in large open-air halls, wash themselves at the draw wells. Then people go into the Ganges, 3 times as wide as the Rhine, wash their clothes (the water is considered sacred) and drink a can of the water. The river is called Hoogly and is a tributary of the Ganges.

All very funny. We ate flour pancakes (lollipops) at a large booth, they are kneaded by almost naked men who sit on the floor with dirty feet. You throw the cakes 3 m away in a giant pan 2 m in diameter full of hot oil. Now I have diarrhea (called “Delhi-Belly”) - probably a punishment from the goddess Kali for unbelieving tourists like me.

Nearby on the Ganges is a park with monkeys and small offspring, very cute, they like to steal glasses, you should be careful. Then we went to the cremation sites, where a pile of wood was being burned. It was a man of about 50, the feet and the head peeped out. The cremation takes about 1 hour. Then a small amount of the ashes are poured into "Mother Ganga". Wealthy Indians can borrow a boat for this.

Without the friendliness of the people here, the city would explode socially, I sometimes think.

On Sunday I take the night train to Bodhgaya and then to Benares. It should be quieter there, at least because of the traffic. I'm curious how I survive this ...

I've already gotten to the point where I actually find everything almost normal.


Yesterday we took a taxi into the city (takes 1 hour, lots of traffic jams), to the part of town where the books are sold on the street, all in English, Bengal and Hindi, but very interesting. A whole neighborhood. In between, small printing shops, food stalls, coconut drink providers and sugar cane juice presses. Amazing: Of all things, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is offered in English in several different print editions, enriched with photos. There are hardly any bookstores like ours, so students and other people order their things from the street stalls.

The city's largest university is nearby. In the middle of the Gewuehle above the book stands on the first floor of a house is the only bigger cafe far and wide. There is a real cafe there, which also tastes good (15 cents). The cafe is a rarity (apart from a few expensive US chain cafes). Many students and other people sit in the giant hall, and there is also inexpensive food. Everyone is very friendly and happy about the foreigners who have found their way to the cafe.

Then we went to the "artists' quarter", there the figures for celebrations etc. are made. They stand in narrow streets as big as the old town of Düsseldorf: Kali, Ganesha with his little rat, Shiwa and everyone else, including Hanuman, the monkey god. These figures from 10 cm to 3 meters in size are tied and braided from straw and wire, then pasted with clay, which then dries, then come the subtleties, finally the colors and the tinsel. Very well done in dark, small workshops. At the roadside there are a lot of unclothed beautiful women (goddesses), still unpainted, but already well formed. Yes, photography is fun!

At a small shack we chewed Bethel nuts, which tasted a little like nutmeg, ate some "intoxicating tobacco" and ate a leaf filled with stimulating spices. This gets you a little lala in your head.

The adjacent quarter is dedicated to the red light. There are Indian women in heavy make-up on the noisy thoroughfare, but also transvestites, even more painted, and laughing at everyone. Or pretend. Everyone in a saree, a six-meter-long dress that 90% of all Indian women wear. The shemales, they call themselves "Hijras" and consider themselves the 3rd gender, even go to the car window in a traffic jam and look into your face as if they wanted to say: Come on innocent tourist, I'll show you something completely new!

There are astonishingly many Christian churches in Calcutta, almost all of them have schools to which the local middle class sends their children because they are supposed to be good. The children have school uniforms, and those who don't have the money have to go to public or simple schools on the outskirts with long journeys. If any.

In general, there has been a lot of activity here with the middle class, i.e. the nouveau riche and social climbers. About 300 TV stations broadcast advertising messages in abundance for skin creams and diamonds and elegant cars, long programs about shareholder values ​​(share prices) give the impression that all Europeans and US people are speculating on the stock market day and night and as if it were the meaning of life, to know where the shares of Tata (India's largest concern) and Mercedes and Apple and Pepsi Cola are. Financial reports run under the title "Money Mantra". Absurd when you consider that the homeless live on the street on 20 rupees (15 cents) a day and wash at a gully, and cook and sleep there too.

There is also a kind of educational craze with schools and secondary colleges. This leads to the fact that mothers or the nannies bring the children of wealthy families to the better schools, then sit together with other mothers or nannies in the garden or on the street in front of the school and chat and knit and wait until the children come out again . Which also has to do with the long travel times, because some children and mothers are on the road for 2 hours, just for one way. Everywhere there is advertising on billboards for tutoring.

Yes, the President of India, Mukerhjee, was on "my" street, Lake End Road. 20 police cars and many policemen in elegant uniforms stood in front of the president's parents' house. On the way to the guesthouse "Sona", which is 100 m after the president's house, I was looked at at the passage of a barrier made of bamboo poles, then the officer on duty knew immediately: No control necessary - he is a good tourist! I can hardly imagine that in Germany, with us the police security force would jump in a hexagon and scan my ID card and my shoes with the X-ray machine in search of a secret death machine ...

The dishwashers ten meters across from the Presidential House have meanwhile been busy washing their dishes in the gutter, as always. The only difference was that in the morning officials had covered the entire gutter on the left and right of the street with a white, corrosive powder against vermin, in which the half-naked little children were now running around laughing.

All the people here are in a good mood and casual, even if they have to wait 5 minutes at the traffic lights. If this goes to green or red, the number 150 appears on a second lamp, which then slowly goes down to zero. Then the color changes and you can walk. So much for the theory, but many of them run between the cars, stop in the middle, and move on. And all the vehicles did continuously. some with staccato: taat taat - do-do-do. And totally loud.

The buses are scary, visibly battered, loud, people jump up and down during the journey. The conductor stands in the door and shouts at the bus stop where it is going. Loud and fast. In one hand he has rupee bills between all of his fingers, the change in a leather bag, inside it is tight, the places for women are extra at the front so that they are not touched sexually. If someone wants to get on or off during the journey, the conductor knocks twice on the door panel with his hand (the door is always open).

Because of the rape and murder of the woman in New Delhi, there were some demonstrations in the city center (photo), but also in our Gariahat district. It was mostly young people of both sexes who ran through the streets with megaphones, everything is then closed to traffic, very disciplined, including the police. The drivers and passers-by had to wait, whoever squeezed across the street was pushed back and admonished.

I've also ridden the bus several times, but only with company, it's actually quite practical, they run very often, cost 5 cents, and there are three types of buses: the very full, then those that only allow as many passengers as Seats are available, then the noble expensive ones with dark windows and air conditioning.

Sometimes I think that Rheinbahn AG in Duesseldorf should send their drivers here for an internship, hihi - they could really learn to drive a bus there.

There are also rickshaws pulled by men, mostly barefoot, but they are only allowed in the side streets. I have to try it too.The bicycle rickshaws are in the majority, it goes on quite comfortably, often you have to hold on to the rods.

It's a cold wave, the Indians walk around with ear flaps at 15 degrees plus. Why? Gaby says the Indians think that the cold mainly penetrates through the ears. Just as we in Europe think that warm feet and thick shoes are especially important, so the Indians wrap scarves and blankets around their heads and upper bodies and put on earmuffs and a scarf around their chin, ears and head. But the feet stay bare in the thin slippers, very strange.

So much for today, now I go to my room and see if the light is on again.


The journey continues, which is more surprising than I thought. A cold weather front comes from the Himalayas over all of northern India.


Eight hours north from Kalkota. In the main station "Howrah" on the Ganges there was a great crowd. Then 8.15 p.m. punctually departure to Goya. Every half an hour it got 1 degree colder, from 21 to 5 degrees. It was an express train, half a kilometer long, but it stopped about 30 times in small, dark places where people slept on the platform and others got on or off with baskets and boxes on their heads.

The couchette car means reservation, but across from me sat a grandma and grandpa from the village with their grandson, who was around 20 years old, and they got into trouble. Because they had smuggled him in. The conductor came with his assistant and checked cards and IDs, behind them a uniformed man with a submachine gun. Lengthy discussions ensued, and everyone eagerly listened. The woman screamed and shouted something like: "What do you want, he's just sitting here, he's not doing anything!" But he had to pay after long negotiations. The journey on the Eastern Railway of India costs only 154 rupees, approx. 2 euros, for 800 km. But that is a lot for the farmers.

Inseparable - the Indians and their food jugs

At around 11 o'clock everyone lay down or cross-legged. Then - as if on command - plastic cans and food jugs and bags came to light. It was fed. A general pawing and scratching, the Indians only eat with their right hand without a spoon. Then the lights off and - cold, cold, cold. Everyone had brought blankets with them. The couchette car is a tin box, everything rattles, cracks and holes everywhere through which the wind whistles. Hellish noise. Like in a machine factory. The rails rattle, the wheels rattle, the brakes creak and stink of hot air and asbestos dust or something. Horrible! All kinds of traders and tea sellers run through the aisles.

I began to meditate against the cold and noise so that I could endure my fate. At four in the morning I was an icicle meditating. In Gaya, the train station full of sleeping people, I slumped exhausted to the cookers. Hope, happiness and joy - my appointed travel guide Vikash Kumar was there! He had a scarf wrapped around his head, from his chin over his ears and around the top, and looked like he had a toothache. This is what Indians look like when it is cold or they have a woolen hat on, at least they freeze easily.

15 km by tricycle through fog and cold

Then the disillusionment: The holy place is Bodhgaya, 15 km further with the tuktuk! So into the tuktuk, the small three-wheeled car without a window. Boa eyh, what came next was very, very ugly, even for me. The tuktuk picked no less than 10 people! In front the driver and two people, then me with four villagers, then in the back on the shelf 3 women and 2 children. Everyone clinging tightly. The tour guide said apologetically that this was the "local taxi". An hour through the cold night, 5 degrees, fog, potholes, clay huts with thatched roofs. The idea of ​​staying here for 4 days horrified me.

But then the people were dumped, the sun rose and suddenly a giant Buddha in white appeared, half the size of Cologne Cathedral: Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha meditated 2,500 years ago and summarized his ideas in sutras.

Then suddenly the monks, hundreds, thousands - a total of 5,000 Tibetan monks had come for a week for a "warship" (the TV station "phoenix" made recordings), which is like a big church service. There were also many nuns in the dark red robe and even families of monks - dad, mom and child, all shaved and red-faced. Very funny.

In the center of around 100 large temples is the gigantic Buddha temple with the Bodhi tree. In autumn 2012 the Dalai Lama was personally present with more than 100,000 monks and pilgrims and tourists at the time.

Also now in January there is a big festival, a warship, about which I will report in the next mail. Just this much: A guru or sadhu called me on the very first day (these are very respected teachers and traveling priests) and talked to me about India and Germany on a meadow by the bodhi tree.

His name is Madhu Sudan photo). He pointed to an interesting connection between Indians and Germans through the Indo-European migration around 3000 years ago.

Why do I write so much: Because there are no cafes to relax in!

A note about my long emails: This is a kind of writing medidation for me and actually relaxing in between, because everything you experience and see here is very exiting, sometimes just crazy.

In addition, I can actually only sit quietly once in the internet cafe, even if without coffee. What I write as an email is only about 30% of what I see.

I stop now, the PC keyboard is totally dusty (like almost everything in India), it goes on strike and only works violently and I'm hungry.


All the best and greetings to all friends in Germany. I tell you that my mail today comes just 100 m away from the Bodhi tree under which Buddha, or at that time Siddharta, meditated and then a new existence began - so a holy mail today for all of you ... - Tomorrow I go to Varanasi / Benares, Hinduism is popular there. Yesterday I lit candles for your salvation and for everyone here at the temple - everything will be fine.

Today I was in a village temple, historically important from the time of the Buddha. The temples usually have an elementary school with them, where the children sit well on the floor. But in front of the temple entrance the beggars, handicaped people, older women, also children, with crooked legs or blind or only one arm or very old or crippled - or all at once. First there are three and when I give a couple of rupees it becomes ten to twenty, so there is a turmoil. But you can also donate for the school, e.g. 100 rupees, about 1.50 euros, which is worth as much there as 10 euros here. So I donated to the beggars and to the school.

In any case, I can eat quite well for 50 r. In the Internet hip-game restaurant in the center of the small city, where Westerners with long hair and German girls praying the mala in Indian dresses and jingling earrings, a kind of Buddhist rosary, are also crouching.

The many wedding celebrations keep me from sleeping.

I'll just relax until tomorrow. Because gigantic wedding celebrations take place next to my hotel, I'm a little tired because the music goes on until 4 a.m., full volume, with such tiny, thin voices from Indian pop singers.

Today it goes on again, they have already started to cook on pots and pans 1 m in diameter, ten women peel potatoes and chop vegetables into large piles. The men stir with spoons the size of broomsticks. - I myself now mostly eat Chinese because the Indian food is so confusing and I had the "Delhi Belly". But: Ten green antibiotic pills from one of the small pharmacies along the way - and away you go! Without doctor and and for the price of 50 cents. Very convenient.


It's very exhausting here, even if it makes it so interesting, but now I'm a little annoyed about everything, and it's only been half the time of 50 days. The internet cafe boss has just started the generator, noisy because the electricity is gone.

Yes, I'm happy about the white splendor of snow that I see on TV in my guesthouse about Deutsche Welle, that's beautiful, romantic Germany. It's not that far yet, but the Himalayas are only 500 km from the door.

But first just relax - tomorrow, tomorrow the exhausted tourist says. Because two night trains in India are a great course for weight loss through cold and stress and gruesome noise in the overcrowded tin box called couchette, so to speak a healthy stress, hihi.

I noticed how important the right clothes are. Nobody told me that it can be cold in January (I can forget my swimming trunks, there is not a single swimming pool for more than 1000 miles - I'll bet my bath towel that I don't need it). And the Ganges, as holy as it is, Shiwa has it blessed, has the color of thin shit (sorry, Rama ...).

So I'm happy about my KIK pants for 12.99 euros in khaki color with 6 pockets, which looked stupid in Düsseldorf, but is exactly right here, you can even sleep in them!

I'll get back. Have a nice time !!! - Helmuth, the crazy writer


So I'll hold out. I have just eaten for the first time in a local small restaurant on the roadside. Grilled fish with vegetable rice. I now mostly eat rice, because the roti and lollipops (baked flatbreads the size of a beer mat, the main course of the Indians) are usually too dry for me.

I was just walking around the hotels at the main station in Varanasi / Benares. Here are some middle and lower class hostels. The 5 stars are on the banks of the Ganges and in the city. In the middle here are alleys like in the village, a whole herd of cows stands on a football-sized area, the families with small houses behind them. The cows are milked and treated very well because they are precious and sacred. Just like sheep, goats are the common people's savings bank. The only meat that is eaten is sheep, goat and chicken.

Lots of sales booths on every corner, the insane traffic on the main street. Families with children rush across the street between trucks and TUTUTUT. At the gas station there is a guard with a rifle because gasoline is stolen at night without paying. Hundreds of people sleep or crouch with baskets and bags day and night in and around the train station, with a newspaper under them. It's perfectly normal and not necessarily a sign of poverty.

The holy Hindu city of Benares is located roughly in the middle of India and is a major traffic junction with three train stations and many truck and bus centers outside the city, with hundreds of incredible trucks, mostly very brightly painted. There it looks like at the front, everything agitated, the streets and loading bays muddy in the rain, dusty in the sun. I mean real dust, four inches thick. Yesterday I drove through there in the tuktuk for 15 km, rumbling, street holes the size of barrels, you put railroad tracks in them and paint them yellow so that the drivers can see them - attention please. Otherwise Tuktuk disappeared, hehe. There are no taxis here, but short-haul cars can be rented.

Now I go back to my hut and think about the next day.

8. Report SOUL WASHING IN THE GANGES / 2. Report from the Hindu Center

I have just come from the train station, where there are probably over 100 people of all ages on the floor, but this is normal in the train stations anyway. I'm already starting to see where and how I'm leaving for Kolkata on the 29th. I have a couchette car again, but where? Is it in front or behind, the trains are 800 m long, there is no guide, 14 hours to Kalkota, then the worst is behind me. Thank Rama. Then I'll only have Rama for breakfast in Duesseldorf, hihi

There are families of monkeys in the station that are hated and scared away by the traders. A father monkey died because he came between the wagon roof and the power line, he is lying there on a tin roof, electrocuted, the mosquitoes are sitting on him, now the monkey family is afraid, the little ones hang on their mother and whine.

Now everything is better than 3 days ago when I got off the night train, because I discovered the old town of Benares (today Varanasi after the Varana River, which flows into the Ganges, formerly also called Kashi). And there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants for the locals, I see, the other eateries always have about half the vegetarian food. Ayurveda plays a major role, many pharmacies have the label "Hahnemann-Chemists" because he was the German inventor of homeopathy.

There is generally an inscrutable bureaucracy here. Just exchanging the money was a 2-hour action, I had to sign 6 pages of printouts, the passport was copied. Because of black exchangers from Bhutan and Bangladesh. The bank manager grumbled at me because I couldn't prove a home address (it's not in the passport).

Benares alias Varanasi is really nice and very interesting, definitely the old town on the Ganges, where the ghats are. There are around 20 large staircases (as in Duesseldorf's old town), each only 30 times as large, with palaces and temples behind them. The stupid thing is that there are no cafes in the city center where you can sit down - always on your toes or on the rickshaw.

I was on one of the ghats (corridor stairs), there is a lot going on there, good atmosphere, finally sit down and relax. Yes, very nice, only the houses are partly empty, like everywhere else. How the Indians manage to let houses in their overcrowded cities fall into disrepair, even in prime locations, is a riddle that only Shiwa can solve, hihi. Gabi's husband Babu, himself from a wealthy family, said this was due to congested legislation from the English era, according to which it could take 100 years for inheritance matters to be clarified before the city can speak a word of power. - Anyway, maybe that's Indian democracy too.

In any case, I was baptized with Ganges water in Indian by a sadhu and his brahmin companion (or manager), threw flowers into the water and got a red / yellow dot on my forehead, but not the one for married women, but the one for tourists. For all my relatives and friends I have asked the blessings of all Indian gods. Many beggars and masseurs want "donation", which I give and take photos for it. The Indian pilgrims, whole families, undress halfway and go into the Ganges, this is considered to be the washing of souls. It all happens very funny.

A word about the burns in some places. There are also offices of the city administration, the cemetery office, where the dead are registered. No body parts are thrown into the water, just a can of ashes. The combustion is complete, poor people get the wood for free. On the way back to the hotel, 5 deceased people were carried or driven past me, each with flowers.

Today is "Republic Day" in India (for 64 years), Freedom Day, there are many police officers with guns to be seen, but everything is peaceful.

So much for today, the Internet Chamber, a small room, is now full, the Indians want to go online on Sundays, the women mostly like to watch fashion, chat with friends over a netcamera or write applications, the men like to watch porn, others do post by mail.

Here too, even more so than in Kolkata, there is no end of rubbish, cows, dogs and goats eat at the plastic bags on every vacant lot. The streets have no sidewalks, so I have to go to the garbage, my shoes look like that, I'll throw them away, maybe they'll get a rebirth, hihi

My latest theory about garbage is: Indian religion deals extensively with growth and decay (except for the soul, which persists and is subject to karma, i.e. it is guided by good and bad deeds). So now to the garbage: Becoming and passing is more or less organic, that is, humans, animals, plants, nature. But that one day there will be materials like plastik etc. that will easily last 1000 years and contaminate the seas and the rivers and the soil - yes, the ancient Indians could not have known that.

And now they are slowly realizing that consumer frenzy will become a danger. But away with such thoughts - my bungalow hotel is good, it has an inner courtyard, a meadow 10x15 m, it is quiet, a luxury in the general noise, I live near the train station. - In Benares-Varanasi, cows, monkeys and rats walk around on the tracks in the train station, the monkeys are not completely without, they like to steal glasses, everything that shines plunges down from the bars from above and the glasses are gone, I became warned.
Now I'm ready to eat outside in selected restaurants, as far as they deserve this name. Because: Not the "Delhi-Belly" again!

Then to the sea in Puri, also a pilgrimage town. Hopefully I can swim there!


Yes, I am now washed clean, for a donation of 250 rupees, the master and his Brahmin assistant sprinkled me with Ganges water, put paint on my forehead and wrapped a red and yellow thread around my wrist. For that I mumbled the names of my entire family, including friends - you never know how you will need them again, hehe. Of course you are there in the first place, and several Indian deities will take care of you, in an emergency the goddess Kali will come and lined up the heads of dead malicious beings on a string. If that doesn't work ... then what?

After 14 hoursTravel in the windy night train back to Calcutta. I am currently reading that the anti-Islamist writer Salman Rushdie, who lives in London and Sweden, has written a book against Mohammed and has to hide internationally because of. Death threats, banned from Calcutta from the local book fair to avoid riots. There were already demonstrations against him in front of the airport. He is also very well known in Europe and loved by the German do-gooders.

In "my" compartment, three Indian wandering monks sat yesterday evening, all in yellow and red, two each had a strong iron rod 1m long, the other a kind of sword, on which they had hung their food stalls or their snap sack with their belongings. For a while they defied us - those who made reservations - but then their leader sighed and they went to the front door of the wagon and crouched on the floor. These wandering saints travel all over India, they are mostly Hindu-oriented and very respected, they receive food or a few rupees as a donation, for which they deliver a saying or call on a deity.

Back in Calcutta after 12 hours on the night train. The city region of Calcutta, about as big as the Ruhr area, 14 million inhabitants, now seems almost civilized to me, except for the caustic road traffic. But there is also something new for us noble German EU citizens: the traffic light control; Next to the traffic light is another one with numbers, red from 150 to 0, at zero you can walk. I think this is a good invention. if it is green it goes up to 150, takes about 3 minutes, so you always know whether it is still worth going across the street.

Now I'm going to continue on the Hochstrasse, called overfly, and will photograph the rail people from above who live and live next to and on the rails. They have spread out their laundry, are sitting on the rails, and when the express train or the S-Bahn comes, they whiz into their wooden crates, which is extremely dangerous.

Soon it goes to Puri by the sea, holy city in the state of Orissa, 800 km south, I can hopefully swim there, we have a hotel on the beach. - I am sending good vibrations, you should all be or become happy, if this has not already happened.


On the exhausting night train, I considered that it would be worthwhile to send certain patients from Germany here so that they could take the night train there and back to Benares, 12-14 hours each time. In the cramped compartment with Indian families chatting, eating and having fun. The men, especially the smokers, snore that make my ears flutter. And the terrible noise of the train and the fear of getting off the wrong way. This would be a good idea for fear of contact in over-saturated Germany. And for losing weight. Because: I literally have to tighten my belt now! I lost weight quickly and effectively through the cold and stress.

Now I am back to everyday life in Calcutta, today we went shopping in the "Metro" (there is also here), tomorrow it goes to a Jain Temple, Monday with the night train to Puri, supposedly it should already be possible to go into the sea to go, very good.

Then it goes again to Shantiniketan, a university town to the north, Gaby and Babu have a house there, it is quiet and rather tranquil, a kind of Indian health resort. I usually eat with them, here in Kolkata as there, they cook Indian with their cousin with a lot of roties, this is a thin bread roll with air bubbles, the size of a beer mat. But I love Chinese, so now I evade it and go to a more sophisticated cookery to eat Chinese, it costs 50 rupees. This is at the front of the intersection where traffic hell starts.

Who would have thought that - the German Metro AG also has its customers in Kolkata

I bought an Indian red wine in the metro, it comes from the state of Maharasthra, let's see how it tastes. The 'Kingfisher' beer here is ok.

Yesterday evening at 11 o'clock I was almost run over: Four young Indians tried to steal a car as I was just coming out of the house, they drove off at full throttle, but the steering wheel lock blocked, so that after a can full 50 m they crashed into a light pole , got out and escaped. The car, a new white Tata, no longer looked beautiful in the front. Serious damage. If I were out of the house 3 minutes beforehand ... who knows ...

Yes, we're going to have a glass together in Germany, I'm already worn out, alcohol is only available in liquor stores here, but you don't go into them, but stand in front of a barred window and shout what you want - very funny. There's nothing to do with Altbier and a lid, hihi.


In fact, I occasionally think of pea soup or roast neck with dumplings. Ingrid and Peter ate this at the Christmas party with their son and daughter-in-law, plus Riesling wine, I got an email from them. My mouth was watering.

What is going on in my head at the moment: I hate wedding celebrations!

Everywhere I go there are these crazy Indian wedding parties around the guesthouse that last 3 - 5 days. Singing and pop music and loud power generators until 4 o'clock in the morning, with Indian women singing as thin as ants. Now again, I suddenly had to move out of the guesthouse this morning because a whole wedding band was arriving. With a bride who looked very sad.

Now I'm staying with my friends for a day, then tomorrow to Puri by the sea. Allegedly in a real hotel on the beach. Yesterday we went to the metro (cash and carry) and we did some shopping. I picked out red wine myself in the metro, from India, and it's pretty decent. There is beer from "Kingfisher", which tastes quite good, is also tried, it has 8% alc.

Yesterday we were in a Jain temple in Northern Calcota, very pretty with lots of decorations, a kind of Rococo in marble. The Jains, a Hindu branch, are mostly wealthy people and only eat vegetarian food. Then we stopped at the ADAC Club, Babu can go out to eat with guests with the German ADAC card. Inexpensive, good and - with a lot of alcohol.

Alcohol in public is rare here and is only possible in clubs or luxury hotels. That still comes from the English time. There were a lot of people in the ADAC club, mostly middle-class men, who ate little but drank a lot more. I said that if I lived in the area, this would be my hangout and I would introduce beer mat making, haha. Should be funny ...

But now I have discovered a food stall where there is a Chinese rice table to take away, about 1 kilo for 50-70 rupees, less than one euro. It always tastes good in an emergency. Because Indian food is too confusing for me and everything overcooked or with a lot of frying fat (danger!).

Yes, I am looking forward to sun and sea water. Greetings from C. and then from Tuesday from Puri, 800 km further south.


Here in the pilgrimage town of Puri it is 800 km further south and hot, there is a risk of sunburn, but swimming in the sea every day makes me happy. The tsunami of 2004 arrived here only slightly, however, and a street was flooded. Puri has a long beach with more than 200 hotels, mostly visitors from the big cities, there are also numerous buses and tractors with Indian families from the country. They stand on the beach at 6 a.m. and worship the sea and the sun. Throw in flowers and coconuts and mumble prayers. Then some dare to go in, then others too. They go into the water in full clothes, so saree and glittery dresses and when the children are having fun, everyone laughs and bounces back and forth in the waves. Only a few can swim.

Cremation point for the deceased opposite the fish fry

The beach is full of food stalls and other stalls, at one point it is like the Oberkassel fair, there are also tent temples installed and big bells hung up. Then comes the embankment with traders and many fish fryers. Behind it, about 50 m, is a large cremation point for the deceased (crematorium). There were 5 fireplaces in operation yesterday evening with a lot of smoke and smoke. Gaby says you can't smell the cremation, that's true, you smell the fish roast strongly, but not the "other". Allegedly, a lot of incense and scented oil is added to the wood. But it's very strange.

Lots of shops with clothes, holy images and brass figures everywhere. But also very nice silver jewelry. Especially beautiful textiles, very inexpensive. There are 3 main saints that all come to Puri for, their names are “Jagannath”, “Subhadra” and “Balabhadra”. They are considered trimurti (trinity). Jagannath resides there with his "brother" Balabhadra and his "sister" Subhadra, clad in silk and hung with gold jewelry. Three statues carved from the wood of the sacred neem tree stand in the great Jagannath Temple.

There are said to be well over 1000 deities in India, almost every region has its own favorites. The country here is called Orissa (formerly: Odesha) and has its own script and a different language than in Kolkata, West Bengal.

Babu knows the hotel king here, his school friend, he has around ten hotels in good locations, in one of the hotels right on the beach we have two rooms with a sea view, the boss had us picked up from the train station by car. We stand out as a few "white people" who ask the young people on the beach if I can take a photo with them so that they can put it on the Internet for their friends.

The coconut suppliers are also very good - i.e. drinking directly from the nut (photo). And in between there are always cows, big and small, and the dogs, free-living in packs, which are everywhere and sleep in the heat in the shadow of the cows.
There are always weddings that go loudly through the streets, then again a dead person is carried past the hotel.

Now I am glad that I found an internet room at a Colabude so that I can write something again. I phoned Maria in Kerala (2000 km further southwest), she is sitting on the beach and watching dolphins.


It is well known that the Muslim states offer their people little or nothing in terms of joys, because of. who are worth living. You say so. It's a little better in India. But hardly when it comes to erotic, sex and love.

The Indians look so prudish, as if they were all personally descended from Jesus.

The women wrap themselves up in their sarees, the man waits half his life until the family delivers him a woman, then she is unpacked and both of them look at each other ... and then ... Divorce and separation are legal, but actually forbidden. Sometimes all that remains is to emigrate ... And then there are also the castes and the obligation to belong. Actually not since 1947, but ask an Indian, he looks at you in silence, and you can guess that the caste in the family, the richer the more, live on.

To get back to the topic of sexuality - or the young people can go to the temple complex in Konark and get information there. By means of erotic stone work, which - how should it be otherwise - are still "current" today. We were there yesterday and looked at the improper figures at the Sun Temple. In the 12th century India must have been beautiful, it was called "Barathi" and consisted of many individual countries, princely states (today federal states). Now this is called the Indian Union after the Indus River, India. But it is rather as different as the EU. Except for the sexual morality - if it is quite sloppy with us, it is strict there.

Many tourists, including Indian, make a pilgrimage to the facility in Konark, circle around it and take photos. The cameras are running hot, mine too. Kamasutra in stone, very good to look at, some figures have been stolen or defaced over the centuries. The temple has been restored for 60 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. English specialists are at work right now. There are other temples of the kind in India that are visited because of erotic representations that are filed under pornography (Greek: prostitution) in the “free” West.

After this erotic shock, we drove to a mountain with caves of hermits who lived and meditated there to cool off. But then in the 50s came the modern times with tourists, with noise and shouting, also with local uninvited visitors, and the monks have withdrawn. They were monks with vows to be silent, just sit, eat little, rest on the nail board and much more, very different people. Up on the mountain they had a kind of swimming pool carved into the rock to collect rainwater.

> Pause.

A larger procession just passed outside with drums, bells and singing, I don't know why. Definitely a religious celebration or the transportation of a deceased person. By the way: Yesterday the priest (Hindu) responsible for the hotel came into our hotel room and offered to hold a pooja for us in his temple nearby, very inexpensive, or in the hotel room. That's a great idea!!! Why don't the churches in Germany do that? The pastor comes into the house and blesses everyone. Yeah that would fill the churches up again, right?

Our trip yesterday was sponsored by the hotel manager, who gave us his new Chevrolet off-road vehicle with driver and invited us to his house for Sunday. We drove through Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa (Odesha), the country is half the size of Germany, South India begins here. There are ores and coal that the Japanese buy, for which they have built a huge Buddha temple in front of the city.

Out and about in the rich state of Orissa

This city is amazingly clean, looks wealthy, and there is such a thing as discipline in road traffic. At the large intersections there are signs: "Zero Tolerance Zone", the policewomen in their little houses with sunroofs look as if they would not be negotiating for long about fines. It costs 500 rupees not to stop at the zebra crossing etc. - A city where you can see how India can be, clean, tidy. But it has its price - the newspaper says that 400 stalls have just been demolished because they were not approved. Whether these people now get Hartz IV as compensation for the destruction of their existence - not really.

And who doesn't obey the traffic rules?

Right, it's the cows that run around everywhere, including here. You sit on the median of the expressways, one or the other also on the lane. The Indians then do not curse, no, they drive neatly and carefully around the animal that is warming itself on the asphalt and remain silent because it is quite normal, because the cows are emissaries of God and receive great respect. But they are also very nice and do little mischief. There are whole families of cattle: cow, bull and calf. I imagine this on Berliner Allee - haha, that would result in an uprising among drivers in Duesseldorf.

What is also important for Indians would be the little food bar. There are 2-, 3-, 5- and 7-tier food jugs of all sizes in which the food is carried around. Because the Indians like to eat all day long, in the car and on the train, they start to eat everywhere they go. - Now it's time for me to go out to eat too, but first buy a summer shirt, it costs only 3 euros.

Country life looks harmonious here, very green, rice fields and coconut forests, bananas, wonderful, people often laugh and are friendly.


The strangest things happen in the land of the Indians (formerly called Bharati). Yesterday, Sunday morning, there was a surprise: When I looked from the balcony in front of the breakfest, I saw a special kind of phenomenon. In the middle of the street, between the crowd of people and pilgrims who are going or coming to the beach or the temple, the cars, who whistled and honked their horns continuously, the cows and dogs and the rickshaw drivers, I saw a woman approach who was actually walking naked on the street.

She only had a green and yellow scarf around her neck, which she spread out with her arms, she gazed ecstatically into the sun and was otherwise totally naked. I was of course very astonished, didn't trust my senses, and alerted my travel companions Gaby and Babu across the street in the room: "A naked woman, really, down there!"

They both rushed to the window, looked at me to see if I was making a stupid joke, and then froze, speechless. The woman, by no means drunk, was an Indian about 25-30 years old, pretty and slim and well built, hair shorter than usual, and looked almost elegant. But undeniably totally without any clothing except for the scarf. Actually pleasant to look at. Yes, but. And the further insane: Everyone on the street pretended it wasn't there at all! The woman looked at the rising sun and we looked at her as if she were the rising sun until after a while she disappeared into the crowd.

"She has a whack, psychologically", my Gaby and explained to me that she had never (!) Experienced something like this in 30 years in India - a tremendous one for Indians. This morning the beautiful naked lady wasn't there, what a shame.
There are always a lot of people on the move, because from 6 o'clock in the morning around 2-3,000 Indians gather on the beach to pray to the sea god and the sun god and then to a third deity. These three (I call them the 3 Fuzzys because they look so funny) have been popular here in the pilgrimage city for ten centuries. They are called Trimurti (trinity), they are Jagannath as Lord of the Universe with his "brother" Balabhadra and his "sister" Subhadra.

In the city there is a huge Hindu temple called "Jagannath Temple", which looks a bit similar to St. Peter's Basilica, plus a few dozen other temples, not to mention the hundreds of small and tiny temples everywhere in every street. But only real Hindus are allowed in the big ones, allegedly even Sonia Gandhi, head of the Congress Party, was not allowed in because she is married to a Muslim and is an Italian herself.

For this we visited the hotel manager's private house, a noble part at the end of the 3 km long beach, the family is of course rich. Your house was built in the Swiss chalet style. He was also happy to show us the new kitchen in the main hotel with an expensive exhaust system for roasting and cooking, imported from Germany. He has also installed a waste water purification system and set up a canteen for his employees, making him unique in Puri.

Now it's back to Kolkata by night train tonight, me with a slight sunburn.


From Puri back, on to Santiniketan and Tarapith, here is the report from 02/17/13. Again the naked woman on the quayside in Puri, this was not a film set, but probably one of the mild psychological cases that do not end up in clinics in India like ours, but sometimes on the street as "unadjusted". Means Gaby with 30 years of experience in India.

The Indians here, everywhere I have been, in the federal states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, eat only sheep, goat, chicken, no cattle because of the meat. Hinduism, no pigs wg. Islamists. Although there are enough pigs and cows running around, hehe. Vegetarian is traditionally a priority because it is also not that expensive.

In the meantime, after a week's seaside resort, mixed with a pilgrim temple, we were briefly in Kolkata, continued to the northeast by train, near the border with Bangladesh (the former East Bengal). So around 1000 km from Puri. There is Santiniketan, a university town that was founded 100 years ago by the philosopher and social reformer Rabindra Tagore. Babu studied there, he and Gaby have a holiday home, more like a villa. This university is very extensive, has around 8,000 students (and students who go to school there early and live in boarding schools) and - in my opinion - is anthrosophically oriented, like the Waldorf schools in Germany and Switzerland by Rudolf Steiner.

The university is funded by the central government in Delhi and is considered a showpiece, even buses with Indian tourists are on their way there. For me it is not that interesting because my sister works for the anthroposophists and I therefore know anthrosophy, e.g. Herdecke hospital etc. In any case, this university is free of religious denominations and boxless, but not classless - the financially strong middle class likes to send theirs Children there.

In general the sets, there were 4 main sets with numerous subdivisions, they have been abolished by law since 1976, but still exist. The 5th caste are the Dalith or Parias, formerly the untouchables, they are indeed disadvantaged, but they fight their way up in modern times. Perhaps comparable to our Hartz 4 fellow citizens. The marriage advertisements in the newspapers are full of indications that the same caste or uppercast is desired when choosing a partner. Some advertisements are satisfied with the indication of General Caste, so it doesn't matter which one.

In the Tantra temple of Tarapith

But then the highlight at the end of my tour: Off to the Tantra temple, 160 km further in Tarapith, near the border with Bangladesh. In this middle city this Kali or Tara temple stands in the middle of the city on the river. Lots of visitors and pilgrims come to the "Maa Tara Temple" all year round, thousands when it comes to Kali, goddess of justice and vengeance and more. In any case, there is always blood in play from the sacrificial animals that are killed in the temple, sheep and goats, the blood flows out of a pipe, black flies pounce on it. Lots of noise and shouting, crowds, slippery ground, taking off your shoes ...

In addition to the magical image of the Kali, where you have to stand in a queue, the temple complex has other prayer places where poojas (small and large celebrations or devotions) are held. A large number of sadhus and holy women dressed in yellow and red are always on the move and help the pilgrims with the pooja. There are also fires burning in several places with a lot of murmuring and throwing up arms. Outside the walls is the pilgrimage route, full of sales stands with religious utensils such as bells, pictures, smoking sticks, cookshops and sweets (the Indians like to eat misti, these are sweet things), you can get lost there. Everywhere also the beggars, who are well respected, because whoever gives a little more than 1 rupee, is dabbed on the forehead, so a dedication.

Now to Tantra, that is yoga, connected with sexuality ... Boa Eyh!

The theory is that when man and woman unite, energy is released, spiritual or cosmic forces. In order to use these so that they don't just fizzle out, the cohabitation (stupid German word) is not completed, but the woman and man stop doing it and start meditating. Both together. This is said to be very successful on the way to enlightenment. And the holy men and women there do this, albeit unfortunately not in front of everyone, but in a colony of small houses and shacks behind the temple. And mostly at night. Babu said disparagingly that they probably did that almost every day, but the success was rather meager, only around 2% would achieve the higher ordinations or holy states.

We strolled through the colony, seeing few people, some red-robed people were sitting under one roof and were silent. During the tantra ceremony, the women are dressed in black with all sorts of tinsel stuff. We could see a tantra couple, around 30 years old, sitting in front of their hut with smoking sticks and many sacred images of the numerous gods. The woman combed her hair and looked quite happy, the man looked unsubstantially into the distance and was visibly concerned with cosmological questions, I say casually. And 50 m in sight was the cremation site on the river bank, where two deceased were cremated, three more were carried over in the half hour that we were there, singing and drumming. We left because we didn't want to stand there when we were undressing the bodies.

Yes, it is a bit strange or strange and impressive, some thoughts go through your head ... Whereby Tantra also means to free yourself from attachments during earthly life, i.e. from the purely biological urge for sexuality, from addiction in general, but also of emotions such as hatred and also of love, which can degenerate into manic possessiveness. In order to enter nirvana prematurely, the mind and body must become free. That is the main idea. Sexuality as the strongest force should be lived and at the same time overcome. Or something like that ... But who can do it anyway.

Incidentally, the drive to Tarapith was very exhausting, with the rental car and driver (30 euros) for one day. The road goes far north over Sikkim and Buthan to the Himalayas and China, accordingly there are a lot of trucks on the way, the road conditions are jarring. In addition, this route is also the feeder to the highway to Delhi.

A pothole rarely comes alone, there are usually a dozen in a row. The gigantic trucks rush over it day and night and thump if the tire is torn or the axle. Then they screw with their bare hands in the middle of the street. The broken tires are piled up in the villages on the outskirts. It took us 3 hours for the 160 km. Dust, dust, dust - me at the back window, open at the top, the wind blew the dust and the diesel on my ear and hair, in the evening I was two-tone, my ear and my hair were almost black and I had to take a shower.

Now back in Calcutta, amazingly it rains at this time of the year. Now I have to clean up my suitcase and my mind. Nine major train journeys with more than 5800 km are behind me. Yesterday we were invited to friends again, all rich people. A lot of whiskey is drunk, this is the national drink of the Indians, after the Scots and the USA and Canada they produce the most types of whiskey. I didn't think so. (02/17/13)

21.02. 2013

Hello, I'm back in Germany, the country where hardly anyone laughs, it seems to me after the first culture shock.

Now I'm slowly starting to take stock of things, and I think the trip was worth it, especially because it was different from what I expected. Since I was not a "normal" tourist, but lived in Indian society, from poor to rich, my insight into this country was quite large.

Thank God I didn't flee after 1 week, I had such temptations ... I took the train 9 times, 5 times at night, 5800 km, was in 4 states and 6 cities, Kolkata, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Puri, Santiniketan and Tarapith . I made 15 travel reports, 1500 photos. I was frozen un