Harry Schlo▀macher

Half Year Asia Adventure // PART--7

Herat - Kandahar - Kabul:
We covered this distance relatively quickly in two days. No wonder, because that expressway in Afghanistan, which is otherwise so underdeveloped, can probably call itself the best-built "highway" in the Middle East and South Asia. No one knew for sure who built it. Russians, Americans and even Germans were mentioned. Our journey was only interrupted by toll barriers, which, however, look like unlit roadblocks at night and can be life-threatening for strangers. We almost drove through the first one - before Herat. Kandahar is the main hub for hashish - smoking hashish is legal in Afghanistan.

Shortly behind the West-Pakistani border (near Torkham), the historic Khyber Pass stretches to about 16 km east of Peshawar. Gun barrels flashed Our Pakistani companion advised us not to stop here - in the bottlenecks of the "Khyber". At his command we looked up: rifle barrels flashed from several loopholes of these "rock castles" (the dwellings of the wild tribes living here are very similar to those). We could now guess how incredibly difficult it must have been for the Persians, Greeks, Durranis, Mongols, Tartars and Seljuks to fight their way through the Khyber Pass to the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. Even the English had suffered heavy losses here not so long ago.

On December 24th we reached the Indian border near Ferozpur. Our first thought: now we are being squeezed with questions like a lemon and searched to the skin for drugs, foreign money and Indian rupees (this happened to several hitchhiker friends). We were all the more surprised when a senior customs official invited us to spend "Christmas evening" with his family - which we of course enthusiastically accepted. The customs formalities were correspondingly quick and less intensive. We were well entertained in his comfortable home, but never saw his wife. The customs officer belonged to the Sigh sect and the consistent keeping of one's own wife anonymous towards strangers is part of their religion

Twelve years of construction We stood enthusiastically in front of the most beautiful mosque in the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra. How did this magnificent structure come about? Shortly before Mumtaz or Taj Mahal - after which the structure is named - died, she made her husband, Shah Jahal, promise that he would build a mausoleum over her grave. It was to prove worthy of the love she had given him over 18 years as his wife. It took an army of 20,000 workers, masons, stonemasons and jewelers twelve years to complete the Taj Mahal.

We experienced New Year's Day and with it the most interesting and shocking moments of our trip in India's place of pilgrimage, Benares. From the rowing boat we had a fantastic view of the Varanasis shore region, as the residents call their city. Temples and pagodas of various sizes and designs line the banks of the Ganges in large numbers. Beneath this are wide terraces and large staircases that lead down to the water. Thousands of Indians populate it - some chatting with each other, some lost in meditation. The others wash themselves and their clothes or surrender themselves completely to the purifying power of the sacred water by immersing themselves in it. Any health authority in Germany would immediately declare this sacred site a restricted area, the water is so frighteningly dirty there.

(to be continued)


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Published on e-Stories.org on 06/26/2023.


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