A fort, a step well, some shopping

Today (Sunday) wasour first full day together, starting with a visit to the Amber Fort, high above the city. The landscape is entirely different from the flat, dry plains of Delhi and Agra; green, with hills and mountains in sight and the fort at the top of a dusty hill. We got on the minibus to the town of Amber and then took Jeeps up the steep mountainside. We stopped first at the Panna Meena ka Kund stepwell, dating from the 10th century.  Stepwells were commonly used to collect and store water but were also gathering places, especially for women, and provided cool air on sweltering day.  It functioned like a cistern, with steps along the sides so that you could get to the water no matter what the depth, depending on rainfall. The design was graphically strong, very striking and filled with patterns, light and dark. And of course there were monkeys everywhere. Here are Carol and Caron in a little gazebo overlooking the well.

At the top of the hill, we met our affable guide who explained the fort to us, though between being hard to hear and hard to understand it was not terribly iluminating. Though it’s called a fort, there are three palaces here, winter, summer and monsoon, where the princesses lived, with no man allowed in except for the king. Again, beautiful carvings and painted walls. And long walls along the ridgeline to keep out…someone? The winter palace featured mirrored walls to reflect the light on cold winter days.

(Bad hair day, but so it goes!)  (And this was my go-to costume: travel vest where I could put my phone, guidebook or pamphlet, hand sanitizer, tissues, etc., small purse, and backpack for other layers, water bottle, emergency book, etc. etc.  Luckily I no longer care deeply about how I look when traveling!)

And everywhere, beautifully detailed inlaid designs.

There are elephants that you can ride, though it’s not a good idea for the elephants, so we did not indulge.

On the way out of the Amber fort we stopped by a bookstore with an interesting selection.  I’m really liking the Dalrymple book so hope to read more of him when I get home.

After lunch at the hotel, we gathered for a quick intro by each one of us.  Many stories to tell – Pati and her benign optic nerve tumor, M and her debilitating car accident that’s still being litigated, Sujata and her recovery from breast cancer, Amy and her year of refocusing that included a decision to stop designing fabric, Ginger and her story of finding her true love in Saskatchewan, et al.  A great group!

The afternoon was long.  We began by stopping at a new city gate that has been decorated in the traditional style.  It was beautiful and much visited by locals, especially young ones.  Then off to two markets at which point I was beginning to sag.  The first was an outdoor market set up in conjunction with the Literary Festival, where I saw some fabrics that I liked but nothing I needed to own. (This is also where we saw the creepy monkey man.)  The second shop had lovely clothes but I was really dead on my feet by now. Dinner at the hotel around 8 and then fell into bed.

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