Varanasi was easily the best weekend away in India, we just did so much, I will elaborate below.
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world.
We took the overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi, the train took a grand total of 14 hours. We played many games of hearts to keep ourselves amused. When we stepped off the station entrance steps we were over run by 10 to 15 auto drivers all asking for us to use their services. We chose the one who gave us the best price and we made our way to Haifa Hotel which was located a stones throw away from the Ganges. We had breakfast here and then went down to the river for a boat ride. We found ourselves a reasonably priced boat and made our way across the Ganges. As we were coming back we were allowed to row the boat ourselves, I did a very shoddy job and almost let our boat get taken away by the current. John on the other hand managed to get us all the way back to the other side all by himself.
When we got back it was lunch time, we found ourselves a pizzeria situated nearby which did some of the best pizza I have ever had in India. The only problem was that there was a wall and the floor was covered in flies. We spent our whole meal with one hand picking up food and the other hand swishing at the flies to stay off our food. We were then told by several people that the festival in the evening at one of the major Ghats was the thing to attend in Varanasi.
Evening came and we made our way over to the Ghat, the whole area was covered with men in orange (pilgrims), these people travelled to the Ganges with a container, which they filled up with the Holy Ganges Water. After they had collected the water they made their ways to the Vishwantha Temple (Golden Temple). The festival was packed with these orange men and others, the smells and atmosphere was intoxicating. There were about 6 men at the front of the Ganges waving a lamp full of a type of incense, whilst ringing a bell which was held in his other hand. At this point we had two guys approach us and ask if we wanted a boat ride to the crematorium area just one Ghat down, we accepted for a very reasonable price.
After the festival came to an end we made our way over to the crematorium Ghat. Here there were 5 fires each of which were used to cremate a body. The main fire which was located within the stone structure aloft the other fires and had been burning for 3000 years. We dropped anchor and made our way onto shore, where we were shown around by a wood collector. He told us that 300 kg of wood was needed to burn one body.
P.S. The rest shall follow shortly!