I’m travelling in my mind this month, back through time, recalling places been, and thinking about places yet to be seen.
Jaisalmer, India: From Delhi, take an overnight train for 17 hours and wake up in Jaisalmer, a city close to the Pakistan border. Known as the Golden City, it’s a fort city on the edge of the Thar desert. It’s a romantic kind of fort. Walking along the street of the fort town you have the feel that you could be on the set of a James Bond or Indiana Jones film – that there is some kind of wild adventure waiting around the corner. In fact there probably won’t be, but that’s OK. The city has enough charm in its own right without offering adventure as well.
The gold sandstone that is used for many of the buildings in the old fort part of the town gives the town its “golden” moniker. It’s a wonderful place to walk around and soak up the ambiance.
Because Jaisalmer is quite remote, and the old fort town is so small, you don’t get the sense of crowding and noise and bustle that you do in other places in India. Many of the streets of the old fort town are too narrow for cars (although you still might have to watch out for small motorbikes and scooters), and the narrowness of the streets means they are in shadow for most of the day, offering a degree of coolness in an otherwise unforgiving desert climate.
If you do visit Jaisalmer Fort, I recommend you look for a small shop called Bellissima. This shop is a cooperative run for the benefit of widowed women in the local area, selling their handicrafts. Better to spend your money here than in the bigger (and hard sell) shops on the outskirts of the fort.
We have a world map on a wall in our house, and some years ago, before our overland trip in Central Asia with Dragoman, we would spend some time studying the map of Uzbekistan, looking at the road that would take us from Khiva to Bukhara to Samarkand to Tashkent. And on the way to Tashkent, the road passed a town called Jizzax. This is of course an amusing sounding place name in English (I won’t explain why) but on the day we drove from Samarkand to Tashkent, we asked the crew if we could stop somewhere if we pass a road sign or something for the town of Jizzax, just because we wanted in future to look at the map and think, I was there. The crew were good enough to indulge us, although the rest of the travellers on the tour were perhaps a little confused.
It turns out the town is pronounced “Yizz-akh” not Jizz-Ax as we had been pronouncing it.
I was there.
Somewhere to go: Jablanica Lake, Bosnia Herzegovina
Sitting on a bus on a boiling hot day travelling from Sarajevo to Mostar. The bus doesn’t have air conditioning and I’m sweating into my seat. We stop at a town where people get on an off the bus and through the window of the bus I see a lake. The lake is blue and it looks cold. I imagine what it would be like to dive into that cold lake water right at that moment and wash all the bus sweat off me. Out on the lake I can see large floating platforms, like big pedalos, with enough space to lay down a towel and sun bathe. I think about how much I would like to be lying on one of those platforms until I got too hot, then I would dive into the lake and swim until I got too cold. And how I would repeat that all day. Some of these platforms had shade and seating too. You could take a picnic hamper and spend a few hours out on the lake, swimming, sunbathing, looking up at the forested mountains that surrounded you, just relaxing in nature.
From time to time I think about that lake and I go online to look for guest houses in the area.
Not that I have plans to go there.
At least not any time soon.
But maybe one day…