Wednesday morning we slept in a bit after another week of early mornings and busy days. We left the hotel at 9:30 packed for Delhi. Our driver has been very punctual and extremely helpful all through our journey. Once again, he met us in the parking lot to meet the new day. Our Agra guide certainly knows his territory as well. He prepares us in route for our next destination and stays right with us giving us the best of the photo ops, the detailed facts and figures and even the folklore embedded in the local oral history!
We visited Agra Fort this morning--at least the third of the fort that is open to the public. It is the largest of the Mogul forts in India and two thirds of it are used today for the military of India. The intricate details carved into the marble and the red sandstone remain to today in many sections. It is unbelievable to look at the inlaid precious stone making such beautiful designs in the walls and to imagine the craftsmen taking on such a project! Above the archways in the summer palace are sections of inlaid stone that shine through the translucent marble still today. The winter palace housed a library of three rooms with ornately carved shelves lining the walls high above our heads. The rooms were amazingly well ventilated with hidden air vents above the doors. Latticework carved into the walls of marble donned emblems of many religions and reflected the moguls’ symmetric design both in the walls of the lower chambers as well as in the balconies above the courtyards. Entrance into the fort was originally through the gate only if the draw bridge was lowered. The drawbridge spanned the double moat surrounding the fort. The outside moat was filled with water while the inner moat housed tigers.
One of the outstanding memories of today’s visit to the fort will be the wonderful views it afforded of the Taj Mahal! We enjoyed taking pictures through the haze from every lattice shape we could find.
Another memorable moment came when Jonnie took her first picture within the gate. She set down her water bottle and leaned against the stone wall. One of several monkeys playing in the grass behind her grabbed her water and ran off with it. The mother monkey took the bottle from her young when they were unsuccessful at poking a hole in it. She bit a hole in the bottom of the bottle and gave drinks to her young.
After a thorough tour of the fort, we said goodbye to the guide and headed on the five hour drive to Delhi. Our driver kept us up to date on the national holiday beginning this afternoon and continuing on through the day tomorrow. It is the Hindu festival of colors and we saw many, many pilgrims headed to the temple to celebrate. Others were sprying their friends with bright colors. Faces, shirts, cars, etc. were all donned in pinks, blues and greens! Booths set up along the road and in the villages selling powder by the kilo and water guns of all sizes to use to squirt the color! We will be very careful when we go out tomorrow afternoon!
It was nice to arrive back in Delhi this evening and to return to the Svelte Hotel. We feel like we are home again. Tomorrow will be a slow day of packing and reorganizing with a short outing in the afternoon to see the Lotus Temple. Tomorrow night we will go to the airport about midnight to fly to Frankfurt where Jonnie and I will part ways. Jonnie will be home Friday evening. I will arrive in Kiev where I hear the temperature is 24 degrees F today!