With tulips, chinar and the captivating Dal Lake, Srinagar has become an year-round holiday destination. It is a sight to behold. The view from the flight is simply spectacular. Down below the valley is a carpet of yellow and green,so different from the concrete jungle that we live in.
Though affected by terrorism for a long time, the state has successfully bounced back to normalcy and is once again a haven for tourist. Popularized by Indian cinema, places like Gulmarg and the Dal Lake in Srinagar leaves behind a lasting impression in our minds. It is not without a strong reason that the line “If there is a heaven on earth – it is this…it is this..it is this” has become synonymous with Kashmir. This was my second visit to this ‘heaven on earth’ and on both occasions, I found Srinagar mesmerizing in completely different way. Srinagar is one destination which changes colour with changing season. The chinar leaves which changes colour from green to yellow and then fiery red, carpets the city in its changing shade. In winter, the snow clad mountains and the partially frozen Dal Lake makes you believe you are in some exotic destination, while in spring Srinagar is a burst of myriad colours.
LAKE VIEW IN SRINAGAR
The drive from the airport to the centre of the Srinagar usually takes half and hour. The city buzzes with activity and regular life after hearing so much about curfew and insurgency here. Children were walking towards their school and locals getting busy with life. The road lined with tall poplar and chinar trees. As you approached the Dal Lake, the sight of shikara set the mood of a relaxing holiday far from the maddening crowd which has slowly become part of our daily lives. The wide expanse of the lake, with hills on one side and city on the other takes one to a different world altogether. The soft sound of the oars hitting the water was the only one that breaks the silence here. The beauty of the landscape which was picture perfect, the whiff of fresh air and the quietness was more relaxing and rejuvenation than any spa treatment.
FLOATING WONDERS IN SRINAGAR
A quick look around the houseboat which was no less than a 5 star hotel all carved in expensive wood I set off for a shikara ride of the Dal Lake. One gets to see pictures of floating markets in Bangkok and Pattaya, but Dal Lake beats them all because here there are floating gardens where growing various kinds of vegetables are grown. Not to mention the mesmerizing sight of shikaras laden with multi-colour flowers and others selling almost everything under the sky. Saffron, Kashmiri shawls, kawa, paper maché’ products, local handicrafts, dry fruits and little knick knacks, all come to you in shikaras and you will not even need to step out of the lake for your shopping spree. There are boats selling tea and snacks and you can stop by for your cuppa and even the omnipresent Maggie if you so wish. If you move away from the side which has the markets, the other side of the lake gets quieter and the prayer calls from the Hazratbal mosque gets clearer. The holy shrine of Muslims this is one of the most visited religious place in Srinagar, the other being the Sankaracharya temple at the mountain top. If you want to stop by and have your meal in the lake that too is possible at Char chinar. A small floating island with four chinar tree standing tall has a boat restaurant which serves good enough meal and not to kiss the fantastic 360 view of the lake around you.
There is enough beauty in Srinagar even if you want to move away from the lake. The three Mughal gardens, with blooming flowers are the pride of Srinagar. The water system in these gardens are so advanced that not much watering is still needed even today. Srinagar has added another aspect to its already existing beauty with the very popular Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden. With over 20 lakh tulips in full bloom against the mountainous backdrop, around April and May, the place looks no less than Holland at its best.
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