Agra and the “Crown of Palaces”

Our day trip to Agra began with a very early ride on the “fancy train” that looked much more like the trains that we are used to in Europe and even served us breakfast with tea on board.

Two hours later we were haggling with auto-rickshaw (3-wheeled open taxis) drivers on a fair price to drive us to the famous Taj Mahal.

You are prevented from seeing anything until you enter the complex, but once you cross through the gate, the view is quite breathtaking.

It is always impressive to be standing in front of something that you have seen pictures of your entire life.

Honestly, I thought it would be larger, but the impression was everything the pictures of my youth promised. The actual grounds are quite large, as the mausoleum is flanked on one side by a guest house and a mosque on the other.

It was news to me that the Taj Mahal is not actually a religious building but rather a tribute to love. This mausoleum was constructed the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, who died while giving birth to her 14th child. I kid you not.

The stone and gem inlay in the white marble was truly exquisite and we spent several hours strolling the complex which allows you to get views from all sides of the mausoleum as well as surrounding religious buildings which are bordered by the river on one side. We took our time stopping frequently in the shade to rest and take in the sights.

The second main event for the day was the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (Mini-Taj) who is the grandfather of Jahan’s wife, who the Taj Mahal was built for. We decided to avoid the auto-rickshaw fee and get a feeling for the city by walking a rather long way to our second destination.

On the way we also passed the Agra Fort, which is quite impressive from the outside, but we decided not to pay the hefty foreigners entrance fee after our disappointing experience with the Red Fort in Delhi.

We did however, get a pretty cool view of the Taj Mahal from the entrance to the Fort.

After a long walk through the chaotic streets of Agra the quiet gardens of the Mini-Taj were quite welcome, even before the entrance gate.

The structure itself was much smaller than the Taj.

However we found it to be even more impressive on the inside and at almost sunset the backdrop was beautiful.

Plus, monkeys are always fun.

Erik and I were so relaxed in fact that we accidentally fell asleep while lying on a nearby lawn. Several minutes later I was gently nudged by a very stern security guard that we think explained that you couldn’t sleep in the gardens and we also think threatened us with a 200 INR (4$) fine. We might have missed something though because he told us to wait while he went to retrieve his large bamboo stick and then looked deflated and told us to leave. Strange.

Still recovering from our battle with food poisoning, we were quickly becoming tired of the noise, commotion and cat calls and decided to catch an auto-rickshaw back to the station even though we were 2 hours early. On the way home I remember little as I opted out of most of the Indian dinner I could hardly stand to smell and slept most of the way back to Delhi. I can’t say that I fell in love with Agra as a city, but the Taj Mahal was well worth the long day trip.


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